An attempt to explain recent changes in European snowfall extremes

Faranda, Davide

The goal of this work is to investigate and explain recent changes in total and maximum yearly snowfall from daily data in light of current global warming or the interdecadal variability of atmospheric circulation. We focus on the period 1979–2018 and compare two different datasets: the ERA5 reanalysis data and the E-OBSv20.0 data, where snowfall is identified from rainfall by applying a threshold to temperature. We compute changes as differences from quantities computed for the periods 1999–2018 and 1979–1998. On the one hand, we show that the decline in average snowfall observed in almost all European regions is coherent with previous findings and can be linked to global warming. On the other hand, we observe contrasting changes in maxima and sometimes disagreement in the sign of changes in the two datasets. Coherent positive trends are found for a few countries in the Balkans. These have been investigated in details by looking at modifications in the atmospheric weather patterns as well as local thermodynamic factors concurring to large snowfall events. We link these changes to the stronger prevalence of Atlantic Ridge or blocking patterns associated with deeper cyclonic structures over the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas. These cyclones find warmer surfaces and large availability of humidity and convective available potential energy (CAPE), thus producing large snowfall amounts, enhanced by the Stau effect on the Balkan topography.

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Faranda, Davide: An attempt to explain recent changes in European snowfall extremes. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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