Published in J. Climate 16, 3665-3680, doi:10.1175/1520-0442(2003)016<3665:TIIODT>2.0.CO;2 in 2003
A. M. G. Klein Tank and G. P. Können
Trends in indices of climate extremes are studied on the basis of daily series of temperature and precipitation observations from more than 100 meteorological stations in Europe. The period is 1946-1999, being a warming episode. Averaged over all stations, the indices of temperature extremes indicate ‘symmetric' warming of the cold and warm tails of the distributions of daily minimum and maximum temperature in this period. However, ‘asymmetry' is found for the trends if the period is split into two sub-periods. For the 1946-1975 sub-period, being an episode of slight cooling, the annual number of warm extremes decreases, but the annual number of cold extremes does not increase. This implies a reduction in temperature variability. For the 1976-1999 sub-period, being an episode of pronounced warming, the annual number of warm extremes increases two times faster than expected from the corresponding decrease in the number of cold extremes. This implies an increase in temperature variability, which is mainly due to stagnation in the warming of the cold extremes.
For precipitation, all Europe-average indices of wet extremes increase in the 1946-1999 period, although the spatial coherence of the trends is low. At stations where the annual amount increases, the index that represents the fraction of the annual amount due to very wet days gives a signal of disproportionate large changes in the extremes. At stations with decreasing annual amount, there is no such amplified response of the extremes.
The indices of temperature and precipitation extremes in this study were selected from the list of WMO-CCL/CLIVAR-recommended climate change indices. The selected indices are expressions of events with return period 5-60 days. This means that the annual number of events is sufficiently large to allow for meaningful trend analysis in ~50 year time series. Although the selected indices refer to events that may be called ‘soft' climate extremes, these indices have clear impact relevance.