Climate Dynamics

, Volume 40, Issue 7–8, pp 1657–1669 | Cite as

Physical mechanisms of European winter snow cover variability and its relationship to the NAO

  • Yoojin Kim
  • Kwang-Yul KimEmail author
  • Baek-Min Kim


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.


Snow 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.


  1. Barnett TP, Dümenil L, Schlese U, Roeckner E (1988) The effect of Eurasian snow cover on global climate. Science 239(4839):504–507. doi: 10.1126/science.239.4839.504 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Barnett TP, Dümenil L, Schlese U, Roeckner E, Latif M (1989) The effect of Eurasian snow cover on regional and global climate variations. J Atmos Sci 46(5):661–686CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brown RD (2000) Northern hemisphere snow cover variability and change, 1915–1997. J Clim 13(13):2339–2355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown RD, Mote PW (2009) The response of northern hemisphere snow cover to a changing climate*. J Clim 22(8):2124–2145. doi: 10.1175/2008jcli2665.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brown RD, Petkova N (2007) Snow cover variability in Bulgarian mountainous regions, 1931–2000. Int J Climatol 27(9):1215–1229. doi: 10.1002/joc.1468 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clark MP, Serreze MC (2000) Effects of variations in East Asian snow cover on modulating atmospheric circulation over the North Pacific Ocean. J Clim 13(20):3700–3710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Clark MP, Serreze MC, Robinson DA (1999) Atmospheric controls on Eurasian snow extent. Int J Climatol 19(1):27–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cohen J, Entekhabi D (1999) Eurasian snow cover variability and northern hemisphere climate predictability. Geophys Res Lett 26(3):345–348. doi: 10.1029/1998gl900321 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cohen J, Foster J, Barlow M, Saito K, Jones J (2010) Winter 2009–2010: a case study of an extreme Arctic Oscillation event. Geophys Res Lett 37(17):L17707. doi: 10.1029/2010gl044256 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Déry SJ, Brown RD (2007) Recent northern hemisphere snow cover extent trends and implications for the snow-albedo feedback. Geophys Res Lett 34(22):L22504. doi: 10.1029/2007gl031474 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Falarz M (2004) Variability and trends in the duration and depth of snow cover in Poland in the 20th century. Int J Climatol 24(13):1713–1727. doi: 10.1002/joc.1093 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gong G, Entekhabi D, Cohen J (2002) A large-ensemble model study of the wintertime AO–NAO and the role of interannual snow perturbations. J Clim 15(23):3488–3499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gong G, Entekhabi D, Cohen J (2003) Modeled northern hemisphere winter climate response to realistic Siberian snow anomalies. J Clim 16(23):3917–3931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gong G, Entekhabi D, Cohen J (2004) Orographic constraints on a modeled Siberian snow–tropospheric–stratospheric teleconnection pathway. J Clim 17(6):1176–1189CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gong G, Cohen J, Entekhabi D, Ge Y (2007) Hemispheric-scale climate response to Northern Eurasia land surface characteristics and snow anomalies. Glob Planet Change 56(3–4):359–370CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Groisman PY, Karl TR, Knight RW (1994a) Observed impact of snow cover on the heat balance and the rise of continental spring temperatures. Science 263(5144):198–200. doi: 10.1126/science.263.5144.198 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Groisman PY, Karl TR, Knight RW, Stenchikov GL (1994b) Changes of snow cover, temperature, and radiative heat balance over the northern hemisphere. J Clim 7(11):1633–1656CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Henderson GR, Leathers DJ (2010) European snow cover extent variability and associations with atmospheric forcings. Int J Climatol 30(10):1440–1451. doi: 10.1002/joc.1990 Google Scholar
  19. Kalnay E, Kanamitsu M, Kistler R, Collins W, Deaven D, Gandin L, Iredell M, Saha S, White G, Woollen J, Zhu Y, Leetmaa A, Reynolds R, Chelliah M, Ebisuzaki W, Higgins W, Janowiak J, Mo KC, Ropelewski C, Wang J, Jenne R, Joseph D (1996) The NCEP/NCAR 40-year reanalysis project. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 77(3):437–471CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kim K-Y, North GR (1997) EOFs of harmonizable cyclostationary processes. J Atmos Sci 54(19):2416–2427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kim K-Y, North GR, Huang J (1996) EOFs of one-dimensional cyclostationary time series: computations, examples, and stochastic modeling. J Atmos Sci 53(7):1007–1017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kindap T (2010) A severe sea-effect snow episode over the city of Istanbul. Nat Hazards 54(3):707–723. doi: 10.1007/s11069-009-9496-7 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Laternser M, Schneebeli M (2003) Long-term snow climate trends of the Swiss Alps (1931–1999). Int J Climatol 23(7):733–750. doi: 10.1002/joc.912 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Na H, Kim K-Y, Chang K-I, Kim K, Yun J-Y, Minobe S (2010) Interannual variability of the Korea Strait Bottom Cold Water and its relationship with the upper water temperatures and atmospheric forcing in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). J Geophys Res 115 (C9):C09031. doi: 10.1029/2010jc006347
  25. Robinson DA, Frei A (2000) Seasonal variability of northern hemisphere snow extent using visible satellite data. The Professional Geographer 52(2):307–315. doi: 10.1111/0033-0124.00226 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Robinson DA, Dewey KF, Heim RR (1993) Global snow cover monitoring: an update. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 74(9):1689–1696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Saito K, Cohen J, Entekhabi D (2001) Evolution of atmospheric response to early-season Eurasian snow cover anomalies. Mon Weather Rev 129(11):2746–2760CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Seager R, Kushnir Y, Nakamura J, Ting M, Naik N (2010) Northern hemisphere winter snow anomalies: ENSO, NAO and the winter of 2009/2010. Geophys Res Lett 37(14):L14703. doi: 10.1029/2010gl043830 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Terzago S, Cassardo C, Cremonini R, Fratianni S (2010) Snow precipitation and snow cover climatic variability for the period 1971–2009 in the Southwestern Italian Alps: The 2008–2009 snow season case study. Water 2(4):773–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wang C, Liu H, Lee S-K (2010) The record-breaking cold temperatures during the winter of 2009/2010 in the Northern Hemisphere. Atmos Sci Lett 11(3):161–168. doi: 10.1002/asl.278 CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesSeoul National UniversityGwanak-gu, SeoulRepublic of Korea
  2. 2.Korea Polar Research InstituteYeonsu-gu, IncheonRepublic of Korea

Personalised recommendations