Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selection
Snow influences the climate and climate-related systems because of its high reflectivity, insulating properties, effects on water resources and ecosystems, and cooling of the atmosphere. A decrease in snow cover accelerates climate change.
In Europe, about half of the population lives in areas that have snow cover in January in an average winter. Changes in snow cover affect human well-being through effects on water availability, hydropower, navigation, infrastructure, the livelihoods of indigenous Arctic people, environmental hazards, winter recreation and outdoor light conditions. Variation in snow cover affects winter road and rail maintenance, as well as the exploitation of natural resources.
- IPCC, 2013. Climate Change: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T. F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S. K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P. M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.
- Trend in spring snow cover extent over the Northern Hemisphere and in Europe
- Trend in March snow mass in Europe (excluding mountain areas)
- Projected change in Northern hemisphere spring snow cover extent
- Snow cover extent anomaly (million km²)
- Snow mass anomaly (%)
- Change in snow cover extent (%)
Policy context and targets
In April 2013, the European Commission (EC) presented the EU Adaptation Strategy Package. This package consists of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change (COM/2013/216 final) and a number of supporting documents. The overall aim of the EU Adaptation Strategy is to contribute to a more climate-resilient Europe.
One of the objectives of the EU Adaptation Strategy is Better informed decision-making, which will be achieved by bridging the knowledge gap and further developing the European climate adaptation platform (Climate-ADAPT) as the ‘one-stop shop’ for adaptation information in Europe. Climate-ADAPT has been developed jointly by the EC and the EEA to share knowledge on (1) observed and projected climate change and its impacts on environmental and social systems and on human health, (2) relevant research, (3) EU, transnational, national and subnational adaptation strategies and plans, and (4) adaptation case studies.
Further objectives include Promoting adaptation in key vulnerablesectors through climate-proofing EU sector policies and Promoting action by Member States. Most EU Member States have already adopted national adaptation strategies and many have also prepared action plans on climate change adaptation. The EC also supports adaptation in cities through the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy initiative.
In September 2016, the EC presented an indicative roadmap for the evaluation of the EU Adaptation Strategy by 2018.
In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7th EU Environment Action Programme (7th EAP) to 2020, ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. The 7th EAP is intended to help guide EU action on environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020. It highlights that ‘Action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will increase the resilience of the Union’s economy and society, while stimulating innovation and protecting the Union’s natural resources.’ Consequently, several priority objectives of the 7th EAP refer to climate change adaptation.
No targets have been specified.
Related policy documents
7th Environment Action Programme
DECISION No 1386/2013/EU OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 20 November 2013 on a General Union Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. In November 2013, the European Parliament and the European Council adopted the 7 th EU Environment Action Programme to 2020 ‘Living well, within the limits of our planet’. This programme is intended to help guide EU action on the environment and climate change up to and beyond 2020 based on the following vision: ‘In 2050, we live well, within the planet’s ecological limits. Our prosperity and healthy environment stem from an innovative, circular economy where nothing is wasted and where natural resources are managed sustainably, and biodiversity is protected, valued and restored in ways that enhance our society’s resilience. Our low-carbon growth has long been decoupled from resource use, setting the pace for a safe and sustainable global society.’
Climate-ADAPT: Mainstreaming adaptation in EU sector policies
Overview of EU sector policies in which mainstreaming of adaptation to climate change is ongoing or explored
Climate-ADAPT: National adaptation strategies
Overview of activities of EEA member countries in preparing, developing and implementing adaptation strategies
DG CLIMA: Adaptation to climate change
Adaptation means anticipating the adverse effects of climate change and taking appropriate action to prevent or minimise the damage they can cause, or taking advantage of opportunities that may arise. It has been shown that well planned, early adaptation action saves money and lives in the future. This web portal provides information on all adaptation activities of the European Commission.
EU Adaptation Strategy Package
In April 2013, the European Commission adopted an EU strategy on adaptation to climate change, which has been welcomed by the EU Member States. The strategy aims to make Europe more climate-resilient. By taking a coherent approach and providing for improved coordination, it enhances the preparedness and capacity of all governance levels to respond to the impacts of climate change.
Key policy question
What is the trend in snow cover extent and snow mass in Europe?
Methodology for indicator calculation
Satellite observations on the monthly snow cover extent in the Northern Hemisphere are available since November 1966 from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab. Reconstructed historical estimates are used to extend the time series back to 1922. Trend lines have been added for the satellite area.
Data on snow mass in Europe (exculding mountain areas) are available since 1979 from the Globsnow project. Trend lines have been added.
Projcted changes in snow cover extent up to 2100 are available from the CMIP5 ensemble of climate models for different climate forcing scenarios (RCPs).
Methodology for gap filling
- RUGSL (2011) Fall, Winter, and Spring Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Extent. RUGSL (2011) Fall, Winter, and Spring Northern Hemisphere Snow Cover Extent from the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab.Climate Science: Roger Pielke Sr.
- Luojus et al. 2012: Final Report. GlobSnow Deliverable 3.5. GlobSnow. Luojus, K., Pulliainen, J., Takala, M., Lemmetyinen, J., Kangwa, M., Sohlberg, R., Nagler, T., Rott, H., Derksen, C., Wiesmann, A., Metsämäki, S. and Bojkov, B. (2011) Final Report. GlobSnow Deliverable 3.5. GlobSnow.
- Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover variability and change over 1922–2010 including an assessment of uncertainty. R. D. Brown and D. A. Robinson: Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover variability and change over 1922–2010 including an assessment of uncertainty. The Cryosphere, 5, 219-229, 2011
- Brutel-Vuilmet et al. (2013): An analysis of present and future seasonal Northern Hemisphere land snow cover simulated by CMIP5 coupled climate models. C. Brutel-Vuilmet, M. Ménégoz, and G. Krinner: An analysis of present and future seasonal Northern Hemisphere land snow cover simulated by CMIP5 coupled climate models. The Cryosphere, 7, 67-80, 2013, doi:10.5194/tc-7-67-2013
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
Data on the cryosphere vary significantly with regard to availability and quality. Snow and ice cover have been monitored globally since satellite measurements started in the 1970s. Improved technology allows for more detailed observations and observations of a higher resolution.
Continuous efforts are being made to improve knowledge of the cryosphere. Scenarios for the future development of key components of the cryosphere have recently become available from the CMIP5 project, which has provided climate change projections for the IPCC AR5. Owing to their economic importance, considerable efforts have also been devoted to improving real-time monitoring of snow cover and sea ice.
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
Frequency of updates
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/indicators/snow-cover-3 or scan the QR code.
PDF generated on 23 Mar 2017, 10:11 AM