Changes in statistical distributions of sub-daily surface temperatures and wind speed

Dunn, Robert J. H.; Willett, Kate M.; Parker, David E.

With the ongoing warming of the globe, it is important to quantify changes in the recent behaviour of extreme events given their impacts on human health, infrastructure and the natural environment. We use the sub-daily, multivariate, station-based HadISD dataset to study the changes in the statistical distributions of temperature, dew point temperature and wind speeds. Firstly, we use zonally averaged quantities to show that the lowest temperatures during both day and night are changing more rapidly than the highest, with the effect more pronounced in the northern high latitudes. Along with increases in the zonally averaged mean temperature, the standard deviation has decreased and the skew increased (increasing positive tail, decreasing negative tail) over the last 45 years, again with a stronger, more robust signal at higher latitudes. Changes in the distribution of dew point temperature are similar to those of temperature. However, changes in the distribution of wind speeds indicate a more rapid change at higher speeds than at lower.

Secondly, to assess in more detail the spatial distribution of changes as well as changes across seasons and hours of the day we study each station individually. For stations which show clear indications of change in the statistical moments, the higher the statistical moment, generally the more spatially heterogenous the patterns of change. The standard deviations of temperatures are increasing in a band stretching from Europe through China but are decreasing across North America and in the high northern latitudes, indicating broadening and narrowing of the distributions, respectively. Large seasonal differences are found in the change of standard deviations of temperatures over North America and eastern China. Temperatures in eastern Asia also have increasing skew in the winter in contrast to the remainder of the year. The dew point temperatures show smaller variation in all of the moments but similar patterns to the temperatures. For wind speeds, apart from the USA, standard deviations are decreasing across the world, indicating a decrease in variability.

Finally, we use quantile regression to show changes in the percentiles of distributions over time. These show an increase in high quantiles of temperature in eastern Europe during the summer and also in northern Europe for low quantiles in the winter, also indicating broadening and narrowing of the distributions, respectively. In North America, the largest changes are at the lower quantiles in northern latitudes for autumn and winter. Quantiles of dew point temperature are changing most in the autumn and winter, especially in the northern parts of Europe.



Dunn, Robert J. H. / Willett, Kate M. / Parker, David E.: Changes in statistical distributions of sub-daily surface temperatures and wind speed. 2019. Copernicus Publications.


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