Human influence on European winter wind storms such as those of January 2018

Vautard, Robert; van Oldenborgh, Geert Jan; Otto, Friederike E. L.; Yiou, Pascal; de Vries, Hylke; van Meijgaard, Erik; Stepek, Andrew; Soubeyroux, Jean-Michel; Philip, Sjoukje; Kew, Sarah F.; Costella, Cecilia; Singh, Roop; Tebaldi, Claudia

Several major storms pounded western Europe in January 2018, generating large damages and casualties. The two most impactful ones, Eleanor and Friederike, are analysed here in the context of climate change. Near surface wind speed station observations exhibit a decreasing trend in the frequency of strong winds associated with such storms. High-resolution regional climate models, on the other hand, show no trend up to now and a small increase in storminess in future due to climate change. This shows that factors other than climate change, which are not in the climate models, caused the observed decline in storminess over land. A large part is probably due to increases in surface roughness, as shown for a small set of stations covering the Netherlands and in previous studies. This observed trend could therefore be independent from climate evolution. We concluded that human-induced climate change has had so far no significant influence on storms like the two mentioned. However, all simulations indicate that global warming could lead to a marginal increase (0 %–20 %) in the probability of extreme hourly winds until the middle of the century, consistent with previous modelling studies. This excludes other factors, such as surface roughness, aerosols, and decadal variability, which have up to now caused a much larger negative trend. Until these factors are correctly simulated by climate models, we cannot give credible projections of future storminess over land in Europe.

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Vautard, Robert / van Oldenborgh, Geert Jan / Otto, Friederike E. L. / et al: Human influence on European winter wind storms such as those of January 2018. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Robert Vautard et al.

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