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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 20 Nov 2019

Submitted as: research article | 20 Nov 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Dynamics (ESD).

Eurasian autumn snow impact on winter North Atlantic Oscillation depends on cryospheric variability

Martin Wegmann1, Marco Rohrer2,3,a, María Santolaria-Otín4, and Gerrit Lohmann1 Martin Wegmann et al.
  • 1Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 2Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 3Institute of Geography, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  • 4Institut des Géosciences de l’Environnement, Université Grenoble-Alpes, France
  • anow at: Axis Capital, Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. In recent years, many components of the connection between Eurasian autumn snow cover and wintertime North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) were investigated, suggesting that November snow cover distribution has strong prediction power for the upcoming Northern Hemisphere winter climate. However, non-stationarity of this relationship could impact its use for prediction routines. Here we use snow products from long-term reanalyses to investigate interannual and interdecadal links between autumnal snow cover and atmospheric conditions in winter. We find evidence for a negative NAO tendency after November with a strong west-to-east snow cover gradient, which is valid throughout the last 150 years. This correlation is linked with a consistent impact of November snow on a slowed stratospheric polar vortex. Nevertheless, interdecadal variability for this relationship shows episodes of decreased correlation power, which co-occur with episodes of low variability in the November snow index. We find that the same is also true for sea ice as an NAO predictor. The snow dipole itself is associated with reduced Barents-Kara sea ice concentration, increased Ural blocking frequency and negative temperature anomalies in eastern Eurasia. Increased sea ice variability in recent years is linked to increased snow variability, thus increasing its power in predicting the winter NAO.

Martin Wegmann et al.
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Martin Wegmann et al.
Martin Wegmann et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Predicting the climate of the upcoming season is of big societal benefit. However, finding out which component of the climate system can act as predictor is difficult. In this study, we focus on Eurasian snow cover as such component and show that knowing the snow cover in November is really helpful in predicting the state of winter over Europe. This mechanism was questioned in previous studies. Using snow data that goes back 150 years into the past, we are now very confident in this relationship
Predicting the climate of the upcoming season is of big societal benefit. However, finding out...