Observed Changes in Return Values of Annual Temperature Extremes over Argentina

Matilde Rusticucci Departamento de Ciencias de la Atmósfera y los Océanos, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Bárbara Tencer Departamento de Ciencias de la Atmósfera y los Océanos, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, Universidad de Buenos Aires, and Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

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Abstract

Extreme temperature events are one of the most studied extreme events since their occurrence has a huge impact on society. In this study, the frequency of occurrence of absolute extreme temperature events in Argentina is analyzed. Four annual extremes are defined based on minimum and maximum daily data: the highest maximum (minimum) temperature of the year, and the lowest maximum (minimum) temperature of the year. Applying the extreme value theory (EVT), a generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution is fitted to these extreme indices and return values are calculated for the period 1956–2003. Its spatial distribution indicates that, for warm extremes, maximum temperature (Tx) is expected to be greater than 32°C at least once every 100 yr throughout the country (reaching values even higher than 46°C in the central region), while minimum temperature (Tn) is expected to exceed 16°C (reaching 30°C in the central and northern regions). Cold annual extremes show larger gradients across the country, with Tx being lower than 8°C at least once every 100 yr, and Tn lower than 0°C every 2 yr, with values even less than −10°C in the southwestern part of the country.

However, the frequency of occurrence of climatic extremes has changed throughout the globe during the twentieth century. Changes in return values of annual temperature extremes due to the 1976–77 climatic shift at six long-term datasets are then analyzed. The lowest Tx of the year is the variable in which the 1976–77 shift is less noticeable. At all the stations studied there is a decrease in the probability of occurrence of the highest Tx if the study is based on more recent records, while the frequency of occurrence of the highest Tn increases at some stations and decreases at others. This implies that in the “present climate” (after 1977) there is a greater frequency of occurrence of high values of Tn at Observatorio Central Buenos Aires and Río Gallegos together with a lower frequency of occurrence of high values of Tx, leading to a decrease in the annual temperature range.

The most noticeable change in return values due to the 1976–77 shift is seen in Patagonia where the 10-yr return value for the highest Tn increases from 13.7°C before 1976 to 18.6°C after 1977. That is, values of the highest Tn that occurred at least once every 10 yr in the “past climate” (before 1976) now happened more than once every 2 yr.

Corresponding author address: Matilde Rusticucci, Departamento de Ciencias de la Atmósfera y los Océanos, FCEN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Universitaria Pab II (1428), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Email: mati@at.fcen.uba.ar

Abstract

Extreme temperature events are one of the most studied extreme events since their occurrence has a huge impact on society. In this study, the frequency of occurrence of absolute extreme temperature events in Argentina is analyzed. Four annual extremes are defined based on minimum and maximum daily data: the highest maximum (minimum) temperature of the year, and the lowest maximum (minimum) temperature of the year. Applying the extreme value theory (EVT), a generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution is fitted to these extreme indices and return values are calculated for the period 1956–2003. Its spatial distribution indicates that, for warm extremes, maximum temperature (Tx) is expected to be greater than 32°C at least once every 100 yr throughout the country (reaching values even higher than 46°C in the central region), while minimum temperature (Tn) is expected to exceed 16°C (reaching 30°C in the central and northern regions). Cold annual extremes show larger gradients across the country, with Tx being lower than 8°C at least once every 100 yr, and Tn lower than 0°C every 2 yr, with values even less than −10°C in the southwestern part of the country.

However, the frequency of occurrence of climatic extremes has changed throughout the globe during the twentieth century. Changes in return values of annual temperature extremes due to the 1976–77 climatic shift at six long-term datasets are then analyzed. The lowest Tx of the year is the variable in which the 1976–77 shift is less noticeable. At all the stations studied there is a decrease in the probability of occurrence of the highest Tx if the study is based on more recent records, while the frequency of occurrence of the highest Tn increases at some stations and decreases at others. This implies that in the “present climate” (after 1977) there is a greater frequency of occurrence of high values of Tn at Observatorio Central Buenos Aires and Río Gallegos together with a lower frequency of occurrence of high values of Tx, leading to a decrease in the annual temperature range.

The most noticeable change in return values due to the 1976–77 shift is seen in Patagonia where the 10-yr return value for the highest Tn increases from 13.7°C before 1976 to 18.6°C after 1977. That is, values of the highest Tn that occurred at least once every 10 yr in the “past climate” (before 1976) now happened more than once every 2 yr.

Corresponding author address: Matilde Rusticucci, Departamento de Ciencias de la Atmósfera y los Océanos, FCEN, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Ciudad Universitaria Pab II (1428), Buenos Aires, Argentina. Email: mati@at.fcen.uba.ar

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