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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 20 Sep 2018

Research article | 20 Sep 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of the manuscript is under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).

Human influence on European winter wind storms such as those of January 2018

Robert Vautard1, Geert Jan van Oldenborgh2, Friederike E. L. Otto3, Pascal Yiou1, Hylke de Vries2, Erik van Meijgaard2, Andrew Stepek2, Jean-Michel Soubeyroux4, Sjoukje Philip2, Sarah F. Kew2, Cecilia Costella5, Roop Singh5, and Claudia Tebaldi6 Robert Vautard et al.
  • 1Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l'Environnement, UMR 8212 CEA/CNRS/UVSQ, IPSL & U Paris Saclay, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
  • 2Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), De Bilt, Netherlands
  • 3Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
  • 4Météo-France, Direction des Services Climatiques, Toulouse, France
  • 5Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre
  • 6National Centre for Atmospheric Research, USA

Abstract. Several major storms pounded Western Europe in January 2018, generating large damages and casualties. The two most impactful ones, Eleanor and Friederike, are analyzed here in the context of climate change. Near surface wind speed station observations exhibit a decreasing trend of the frequency of strong winds associated with such storms. High-resolution regional climate models on the other hand show no trend up to now and a small increase in the future due to climate change. This shows that that factors other than climate change, which are not represented (well) in the climate models, caused the observed decline in storminess over land. A large part is probably due to increases in surface roughness, as shown for a small set of stations covering The Netherlands and in previous studies. This trend could therefore be independent from climate evolution. We concluded that human-induced climate change has had so far no significant influence on storms like the two studied. However, all simulations indicate that global warming could lead to a marginal increase (0–20 %) of the probability of extreme hourly winds until the middle of the century, consistent with previous modelling studies. However, this excludes other factors, such as roughness, aerosols, and decadal variability, which have up to now caused a much larger negative trend. Until these factors are simulated well by climate models they cannot give credible projections of future storminess over land in Europe.

Robert Vautard et al.
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Robert Vautard et al.
Robert Vautard et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The effect of human activities on the probability of winter wind storms like the ones that occurred in Western Europe in January 2018 is analyzed using multiple model ensembles. Despite a significant probability decline in observations, we find no significant change in probabilities due to human influence on climate so far. However, such extreme events are likely to be slightly more frequent in the future. The observed decrease in storminess is likely to be due to increasing roughness.
The effect of human activities on the probability of winter wind storms like the ones that...