Climate Dynamics

, Volume 41, Issue 9, pp 2319-2330

First online:

On the future reduction of snowfall in western and central Europe

  • Hylke de VriesAffiliated withRoyal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI Email author 
  • , Reindert J. HaarsmaAffiliated withRoyal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI
  • , Wilco HazelegerAffiliated withRoyal Netherlands Meteorological Institute KNMI

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Large parts of western and central Europe face a 20–50 % future reduction in snowfall on Hellmann days (days with daily-mean temperatures below freezing). This strong reduction occurs in addition to the expected 75 % decrease of the number of Hellmann days near the end of the twenty first century. The result is insensitive to the exact freezing-level threshold, but is in sharp contrast with the winter daily precipitation, which increases under most global warming scenarios. Not only climate model simulations show this. Observational records also reveal that probabilities for precipitation on Hellmann days have been larger in the past. The future reduction is a consequence of the freezing-level threshold becoming a more extreme quantile of the temperature distribution in the future. Only certain circulation types permit these quantiles to be reached, and it is shown that these have intrinsically low precipitation probability.


Snowfall Climate change Circulation patterns Attribution