Nature of cold-air outbreaks in Europe in a warming climate

"The aim of this project is to investigate how Arctic-warming induced changes in the Arctic-North Atlantic sector affect the nature and severity of cold-air outbreaks in Europe.
Cold-air outbreaks are excursions of cold polar air masses into ice-free regions. Freezing temperatures and snow associated with cold-air outbreaks can cause significant travel disruption, fatalities and economic losses.

For instance, the severe cold-air outbreak that spread across much of Europe in February 2018, caused travel chaos and led to several deaths across the UK, and costed the UK economy some £1bn a day. The Arctic region has been experiencing considerable changes in the warming climate. The Arctic sea-ice cover at the end of the melt summer season in September has reduced by half since satellite records began about 40 years ago. During this period, the Arctic lower atmosphere has been warming two to three times faster than the planet as a whole. Studies have demonstrated connections between this Arctic amplification and changes in climate and extreme weather in Europe, but the mechanisms involved remain poorly characterised. Arctic-warming induced changes in the Arctic-North Atlantic sector do not appear to largely affect the occurrence of cold-air outbreaks in Europe, but little is known about how they affect their nature and severity. The successful applicant will use numerical models to examine how the increased open-ocean and marginal ice zone areas in the Arctic translate to changes within the atmospheric boundary layer and cloud layer of cold-air outbreaks. Idealised and realistic settings will be considered and model results will be challenged against existing observations. The project is aligned with the National Centre for Atmospheric Science (NCAS)’s science programme on climate and high impact weather. The student will be integrated within the NCAS research community. Applicants will possess a degree in mathematical, physical or environmental science. For further information, please contact Dr Charles Chemel ("

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£0 GBP
Start date
30 Sep 2022
3 years 6 months
End date
30 Mar 2026