Reconciling the Spatial Distribution of the Surface Temperature Trends in the Southeastern United States

V. Misra Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, and Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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J.-P. Michael Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, and Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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R. Boyles Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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E. P. Chassignet Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, and Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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M. Griffin Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, and Florida Climate Center, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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J. J. O’Brien Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Center for Ocean–Atmospheric Prediction Studies, and Florida Climate Center, The Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida

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Abstract

This study attempts to explain the considerable spatial heterogeneity in the observed linear trends of monthly mean maximum and minimum temperatures (Tmax and Tmin) from station observations in the southeastern (SE) United States (specifically Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). In a majority of these station sites, the warming trends in Tmin are stronger in urban areas relative to rural areas. The linear trends of Tmin in urban areas of the SE United States are approximately 7°F century−1 compared to about 5.5°F century−1 in rural areas. The trends in Tmax show weaker warming (or stronger cooling) trends with irrigation, while trends in Tmin show stronger warming trends. This functionality of the temperature trends with land features also shows seasonality, with the boreal summer season showing the most consistent relationship in the trends of both Tmax and Tmin. This study reveals that linear trends in Tmax in the boreal summer season show a cooling trend of about 0.5°F century−1 with irrigation, while the same observing stations on an average display warming trends in Tmin of about 3.5°F century−1. The seasonality and the physical consistency of these relationships with existing theories may suggest that urbanization and irrigation have a nonnegligible influence on the spatial heterogeneity of the surface temperature trends over the SE United States. The study also delineates the caveats and limitations of the conclusions reached herein due to the potential influence of perceived nonclimatic discontinuities (which incidentally could also have a seasonal cycle) that have not been taken into account.

Corresponding author address: V. Misra, Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, The Florida State University, 1017 Academic Way, Tallahassee, FL 32306. E-mail: vmisra@fsu.edu

Abstract

This study attempts to explain the considerable spatial heterogeneity in the observed linear trends of monthly mean maximum and minimum temperatures (Tmax and Tmin) from station observations in the southeastern (SE) United States (specifically Florida, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina). In a majority of these station sites, the warming trends in Tmin are stronger in urban areas relative to rural areas. The linear trends of Tmin in urban areas of the SE United States are approximately 7°F century−1 compared to about 5.5°F century−1 in rural areas. The trends in Tmax show weaker warming (or stronger cooling) trends with irrigation, while trends in Tmin show stronger warming trends. This functionality of the temperature trends with land features also shows seasonality, with the boreal summer season showing the most consistent relationship in the trends of both Tmax and Tmin. This study reveals that linear trends in Tmax in the boreal summer season show a cooling trend of about 0.5°F century−1 with irrigation, while the same observing stations on an average display warming trends in Tmin of about 3.5°F century−1. The seasonality and the physical consistency of these relationships with existing theories may suggest that urbanization and irrigation have a nonnegligible influence on the spatial heterogeneity of the surface temperature trends over the SE United States. The study also delineates the caveats and limitations of the conclusions reached herein due to the potential influence of perceived nonclimatic discontinuities (which incidentally could also have a seasonal cycle) that have not been taken into account.

Corresponding author address: V. Misra, Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, The Florida State University, 1017 Academic Way, Tallahassee, FL 32306. E-mail: vmisra@fsu.edu
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