University of Oulu

Bailey, H., Hubbard, A., Klein, E.S. et al. Arctic sea-ice loss fuels extreme European snowfall. Nat. Geosci. 14, 283–288 (2021).

Arctic sea-ice loss fuels extreme European snowfall

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Author: Bailey, Hannah1; Hubbard, Alun2; Klein, Eric S.3;
Organizations: 1Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, Department of Geosciences, UiT the Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, Norway
3Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA
4Institut des Géosciences et l’Environnement, National Centre for Scientific Research, Grenoble, France
5Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
6Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK, USA
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 9.7 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2021
Publish Date: 2023-03-02


The loss of Arctic sea-ice has been implicated with severe cold and snowy mid-latitude winters. However, the mechanisms and a direct link remain elusive due to limited observational evidence. Here we present atmospheric water vapour isotope measurements from Arctic Finland during ‘the Beast from the East’—a severe anticyclonic outbreak that brought heavy snowfall and freezing across Europe in February 2018. We find that an anomalously warm Barents Sea, with a 60% ice-free surface, supplied up to 9.3 mm d−1 moisture flux to this cold northeasterly airflow. We demonstrate that approximately 140 gigatonnes of water was evaporated from the Barents Sea during the event, potentially supplying up to 88% of the corresponding fresh snow over northern Europe. Reanalysis data show that from 1979 to 2020, net March evaporation across the Barents Sea increased by approximately 70 kg per square metre of sea-ice lost (r² = 0.73, P <0.01), concurrent with a 1.6 mm (water equivalent) per year increase in Europe’s maximum snowfall. Our analysis directly links Arctic sea-ice loss with increased evaporation and extreme snowfall, and signifies that by 2080, an Atlantified ice-free Barents Sea will be a major source of winter moisture for continental Europe.

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Series: Nature geoscience
ISSN: 1752-0894
ISSN-E: 1752-0908
ISSN-L: 1752-0894
Volume: 14
Issue: 5
Pages: 283 - 288
DOI: 10.1038/s41561-021-00719-y
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
Funding: This study was funded by the Academy of Finland (Grant 316014) and a University of the Arctic (UArctic) Research Chairship to J.M.W. The University of Oulu and Academy of Finland PROFI 4 (Grant 318930) provided additional research support through the Arctic Interactions project. H.B. acknowledges support from a UArctic Postdoctoral Fellowship. A.H. acknowledges support from the Research Council of Norway through its Centres of Excellence funding scheme (Grant 223259).
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 316014
Detailed Information: 316014 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited. This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at: