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Characteristics of Daily and Extreme Temperatures over Canada

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  • 1 Climate Research Branch, Meteorological Service of Canada, Downsview, Ontario, Canada
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Abstract

Recent studies have shown that, since 1900, mean annual temperature over southern Canada has increased by an average of 0.9°C, with the largest warming during winter and early spring. Every season was associated with greater increases in minimum temperature as opposed to maximum, thus resulting in a significant decrease in the daily temperature range (DTR). The second half of the twentieth century was associated with significant winter and spring warming in the south and west, and cooling in the northeast. However, no significant changes in DTR were observed during this period. This investigation goes beyond the annual/seasonal scales by examining trends and variability in daily minimum and maximum temperature with particular emphasis on extremes. Using recently updated, homogenized daily data, spatial and temporal characteristics of daily and extreme temperature-related variables are analyzed on a seasonal basis for the periods of 1900–98 (southern Canada), and 1950–98 (the entire country). From 1900 to 1998, the majority of southern Canada shows significantly increasing trends to the lower and higher percentiles of the daily minimum and maximum temperature distribution. The findings translate into fewer days with extreme low temperature during winter, spring, and summer and more days with extreme high temperature during winter and spring. No consistent trends are found for the higher percentiles of summer daily maximum temperature, indicating little change to the number of extreme hot summer days. Over the southwest, increases are larger to the left-hand side of the daily minimum and maximum temperature distribution, resulting in significant decreases to the intraseasonal standard deviation of daily temperature. The 1950–98 results are somewhat different from the entire century, especially, during winter and spring. This result includes significant increases to the low and high percentiles over the west, and decreases over the east. This analysis reveals that the largest individual daily temperature trends (both minimum and maximum) occur during winter and early spring, when substantial warming is observed. For summer, increases are only associated with daily minimum temperature. Autumn displays varying results, with some late season cooling, mainly over western regions. The observed warming trends have a substantial effect on several economically sensitive indices. This effect includes significant increases in the number of growing and cooling degree days and significant decreases in heating degree days. In addition, the length of the frost-free period is significantly longer over most of the country.

Corresponding author address: Barrie Bonsal, National Water Research Institute, National Hydrology Research Centre, 11 Innovation Blvd., Saskatoon, SK S7N 3H5 Canada.

Email: barrie.bonsal@ec.gc.ca

Abstract

Recent studies have shown that, since 1900, mean annual temperature over southern Canada has increased by an average of 0.9°C, with the largest warming during winter and early spring. Every season was associated with greater increases in minimum temperature as opposed to maximum, thus resulting in a significant decrease in the daily temperature range (DTR). The second half of the twentieth century was associated with significant winter and spring warming in the south and west, and cooling in the northeast. However, no significant changes in DTR were observed during this period. This investigation goes beyond the annual/seasonal scales by examining trends and variability in daily minimum and maximum temperature with particular emphasis on extremes. Using recently updated, homogenized daily data, spatial and temporal characteristics of daily and extreme temperature-related variables are analyzed on a seasonal basis for the periods of 1900–98 (southern Canada), and 1950–98 (the entire country). From 1900 to 1998, the majority of southern Canada shows significantly increasing trends to the lower and higher percentiles of the daily minimum and maximum temperature distribution. The findings translate into fewer days with extreme low temperature during winter, spring, and summer and more days with extreme high temperature during winter and spring. No consistent trends are found for the higher percentiles of summer daily maximum temperature, indicating little change to the number of extreme hot summer days. Over the southwest, increases are larger to the left-hand side of the daily minimum and maximum temperature distribution, resulting in significant decreases to the intraseasonal standard deviation of daily temperature. The 1950–98 results are somewhat different from the entire century, especially, during winter and spring. This result includes significant increases to the low and high percentiles over the west, and decreases over the east. This analysis reveals that the largest individual daily temperature trends (both minimum and maximum) occur during winter and early spring, when substantial warming is observed. For summer, increases are only associated with daily minimum temperature. Autumn displays varying results, with some late season cooling, mainly over western regions. The observed warming trends have a substantial effect on several economically sensitive indices. This effect includes significant increases in the number of growing and cooling degree days and significant decreases in heating degree days. In addition, the length of the frost-free period is significantly longer over most of the country.

Corresponding author address: Barrie Bonsal, National Water Research Institute, National Hydrology Research Centre, 11 Innovation Blvd., Saskatoon, SK S7N 3H5 Canada.

Email: barrie.bonsal@ec.gc.ca

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