Physical mechanisms of European winter snow cover variability and its relationship to the NAO
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Annual snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has decreased in the past two decades, an effect associated with global warming. The regional scale changes of snow cover during winter, however, vary significantly from one region to another. In the present study, snow cover variability over Europe and its connection to other atmospheric variables was investigated using Cyclostationary Empirical Orthogonal Function (CSEOF) analysis. The evolution of atmospheric variables related to each CSEOF mode of snow cover variability was derived via regression analysis in CSEOF space. CSEOF analysis clearly shows that the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) is related to European snow cover, particularly in January and February. A negative NAO phase tends to result in a snow cover increases, whereas a positive NAO phase results in snow cover decreases. The temporal changes in the connection between the NAO and European snow cover are explained by time-dependent NAO-related temperature anomalies. If the NAO phase is negative, the temperature is lower in Europe and snow cover increases; by contrast, when the NAO phase is positive, the temperature is higher and snow cover decreases. Temperature and snow cover variations in Europe are associated with the thermal advection by anomalous wind by NAO. CSEOF analysis also shows an abrupt increase of snow cover in December and January and a decrease in February and March since the year 2000, approximately. This abrupt change is associated with sub-seasonal variations of atmospheric circulation in the study region.
KeywordsSnow cover Europe climate NAO CSEOF Winter climate
This work was supported by grants from the Ministry of Land, Transport, and Maritime Affairs, Korea (Ocean Climate Variability Program and EAST-I Project). KYK and YK were supported by Brain Korea 21 Project.
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