A Revised U.S. Climate Extremes Index

Karin L. Gleason National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina

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Jay H. Lawrimore National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina

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David H. Levinson National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina

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Thomas R. Karl National Climatic Data Center, Asheville, North Carolina

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David J. Karoly School of Meteorology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma

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Abstract

A revised framework is presented that quantifies observed changes in the climate of the contiguous United States through analysis of a revised version of the U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The CEI is based on a set of climate extremes indicators that measure the fraction of the area of the United States experiencing extremes in monthly mean surface temperature, daily precipitation, and drought (or moisture surplus). In the revised CEI, auxiliary station data, including recently digitized pre-1948 data, are incorporated to extend it further back in time and to improve spatial coverage. The revised CEI is updated for the period from 1910 to the present in near–real time and is calculated for eight separate seasons, or periods.

Results for the annual revised CEI are similar to those from the original CEI. Observations over the past decade continue to support the finding that the area experiencing much above-normal maximum and minimum temperatures in recent years has been on the rise, with infrequent occurrence of much below- normal mean maximum and minimum temperatures. Conversely, extremes in much below-normal mean maximum and minimum temperatures indicate a decline from about 1910 to 1930. An increasing trend in the area experiencing much above-normal proportion of heavy daily precipitation is observed from about 1950 to the present. A period with a much greater-than-normal number of days without precipitation is also noted from about 1910 to the mid-1930s. Warm extremes in mean maximum and minimum temperature observed during the summer and warm seasons show a more pronounced increasing trend since the mid-1970s. Results from the winter season show large variability in extremes and little evidence of a trend. The cold season CEI indicates an increase in extremes since the early 1970s yet has large multidecadal variability.

* Current affiliation: School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Corresponding author address: Karin L. Gleason, National Climatic Data Center, 151 Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801-5001. Email: karin.l.gleason@noaa.gov

Abstract

A revised framework is presented that quantifies observed changes in the climate of the contiguous United States through analysis of a revised version of the U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI). The CEI is based on a set of climate extremes indicators that measure the fraction of the area of the United States experiencing extremes in monthly mean surface temperature, daily precipitation, and drought (or moisture surplus). In the revised CEI, auxiliary station data, including recently digitized pre-1948 data, are incorporated to extend it further back in time and to improve spatial coverage. The revised CEI is updated for the period from 1910 to the present in near–real time and is calculated for eight separate seasons, or periods.

Results for the annual revised CEI are similar to those from the original CEI. Observations over the past decade continue to support the finding that the area experiencing much above-normal maximum and minimum temperatures in recent years has been on the rise, with infrequent occurrence of much below- normal mean maximum and minimum temperatures. Conversely, extremes in much below-normal mean maximum and minimum temperatures indicate a decline from about 1910 to 1930. An increasing trend in the area experiencing much above-normal proportion of heavy daily precipitation is observed from about 1950 to the present. A period with a much greater-than-normal number of days without precipitation is also noted from about 1910 to the mid-1930s. Warm extremes in mean maximum and minimum temperature observed during the summer and warm seasons show a more pronounced increasing trend since the mid-1970s. Results from the winter season show large variability in extremes and little evidence of a trend. The cold season CEI indicates an increase in extremes since the early 1970s yet has large multidecadal variability.

* Current affiliation: School of Earth Sciences, University of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Corresponding author address: Karin L. Gleason, National Climatic Data Center, 151 Patton Avenue, Asheville, NC 28801-5001. Email: karin.l.gleason@noaa.gov

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