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Keywords:

  • temperature extremes;
  • Europe;
  • sea ice anomalies;
  • SST anomalies

Despite global warming, Europe experienced several unusually cold winters in recent years. Reduced sea ice concentration in the Arctic and increased sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the Atlantic are independently hypothesized as possible triggers for such cold winters. We investigate the individual and combined influence of Barents Sea and Atlantic sea ice and SST conditions on European winter temperatures. In our simulations cold extremes become more frequent, but the imposed sea ice and/or SST anomalies only weakly affect European winter mean temperatures. We argue that a forced cooling of European mean temperatures would have to include additional mechanisms, but the variability of European winter temperatures is large, and cold winters could just be the result of internal variability.