Was the Cold European Winter of 2009/10 Modified by Anthropogenic Climate Change? An Attribution Study

Bo Christiansen, Carmen Alvarez-Castro, Nikolaos Christidis, Andrew Ciavarella, Ioana Colfescu, Tim Cowan, Jonathan M. Eden, Mathias Hauser, Nils Hempelmann, Katharina Klehmet, Fraser Lott, Cathy Nangini, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh, René Orth, Peter Stott, Simon Tett, Robert Vautard, Laura Wilcox, Pascal Yiou

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Abstract

An attribution study has been performed to investigate the degree to which the unusually cold European winter 2009-2010 was modified by anthropogenic climate change. Two different methods have been included for the attribution: one based on a large HadGEM3-A ensemble and one based on a statistical surrogate method. Both methods are evaluated by comparing simulated winter temperature means, trends, standard deviations, skewness, return periods, and 5 % quantiles with observations. While the surrogate method performs well, HadGEM3-A in general underestimates the trend in winter by a factor of 2/3. It has a mean cold bias dominated by the mountainous regions and also underestimates the cold 5 % quantile in many regions of Europe. Both methods show that the probability of experiencing a winter as cold as 2009-2010 has been reduced by approximately a factor of two due to anthropogenic changes. The method based on HadGEM3-A ensembles gives somewhat larger changes than the surrogate method because of differences in the definition of the unperturbed climate. The results are based on two diagnostics: the coldest day in winter and the largest continuous area with temperatures colder than twice the local standard deviation. The results are not sensitive to the choice of bias correction except in the mountainous regions. Previous results regarding the behavior of the measures of the changed probability have been extended. The counter-intuitive behavior for heavytailed distributions is found to hold for a range of measures and for events that become more rare in a changed climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3387–3410
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Climate
Volume31
Early online date9 Feb 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

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