, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 267-295

The Changing Incidence of Extremes in Worldwide and Central England Temperatures to the End of the Twentieth Century

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Annual and seasonal gridded ocean surface temperature anomalies show an increase in warm extremes and a decrease in cold extremes since the late 19th century attributable entirely to the overall warming trend. Over land, however, a reduction in the total incidence of extremes may reflect improved instrumental exposures. Our estimates of extremes are made by deriving percentiles from fits of anomalies on 5° latitude ×5° longitude resolution to modified 2-parameter gamma distributions. A non-parametric method is used to check the validity of the results. Fields of percentiles created using this technique can be used to map the distribution of unusual temperature anomalies across the globe on any time scale from a month to about a decade, from 1870 onwards. We apply a similar technique to assess changes in the incidence of extreme daily Central England temperature anomalies. The incidence of these extremes, relative to individual monthly average temperatures, has declined.