, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 385-407

Scenarios of extreme temperature events

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Abstract

Based on the principles of the probability theory a statistical model has been developed assessing the likelihood of occurrence of extreme temperature events from the knowledge of the statistical characteristics of the daily temperature extremes. It is demonstrated that the probability of such events is more sensitive to changes in the variability of climate than to changes in its average. Further, this sensitivity increases at a nonlinear rate the more extreme the event. The applicability of the model has been verified by comparing the simulated frequencies of a large spectrum of temperature events with the observed numbers derived from a long time series of daily temperature extremes at Potsdam. Accordingly, the relative simulation errors increase significantly as the events become more extreme. A correction is possible, because most of these errors are systematic rather than random. Moreover, in accordance with the climate observations the simulations reveal statistically significant linear trends in the number of extreme events since the end of the last century. Local scenarios of extreme temperature events have been derived for the city of Berlin by considering both hypothetical new climate states and climate changes simulated by a General Circulation Model (GCM). As a consequence of an increase in the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases up to the end of the next century according to the IPCC Scenario A the repetition rate of extreme events in summer (e.g., hot days) is expected to rise considerably relative to the current climate. Moreover, in the winter season cold days will become extremely rare.