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Was the cold European winter 2009-2010 modified by anthropogenic climate change? An attribution study

Christiansen, B., Alvarez-Castro, C., Christidis, N., Ciavarella, A., Colfescu, I., Cowan, T., Eden, J., Hauser, M., Hempelmann, N., Klehmet, K., Lott, F., Nangini, C., van Oldenborgh, G. J., Orth, R., Stott, P., Tett, S., Vautard, R., Wilcox, L. and Yiou, P. (2018) Was the cold European winter 2009-2010 modified by anthropogenic climate change? An attribution study. Journal of Climate. ISSN 1520-0442

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/jcli-d-17-0589.1

Abstract/Summary

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 heavy-tailed distributions is found to hold for a range of measures and for events that become more rare in a changed climate.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > NCAS
Faculty of Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:75255
Publisher:American Meteorological Society

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