Natural Hazards

, Volume 70, Issue 2, pp 975–994 | Cite as

Spatiotemporal changes of global extreme temperature events (ETEs) since 1981 and the meteorological causes

  • Xiao Song
  • Zhao ZhangEmail author
  • Yi Chen
  • Pin Wang
  • Ming Xiang
  • Peijun Shi
  • Fulu Tao
Original Paper


Of the various types of disasters caused by extreme climate and weather, extreme temperature events (ETEs) have led to a heightened awareness due to their increasing frequency, intensity, widespread distribution, and severe health impacts. Although many previous studies have surveyed the severe impacts of specific ETEs, few systematic studies have analyzed the temporal trends and the spatial patterns of this type of ETEs at the global scale. In the present study, disaster data from 1981 to 2010 compiled by Emergency Events Database were used to obtain a global view of the distribution of and the changes in the recorded ETEs. In addition, the daily maximum/minimum temperature data provided by National Centers for Environmental Prediction /Department of Energy Reanalysis 2 were used to explore the potential meteorological causes of these events. The results showed 2.7 and 6.4 increases in the frequencies of heat waves and cold spells per decade, respectively, since the 1980s. However, a large regional variability was found worldwide. Moreover, more than 40 % of the recorded ETEs occurred in Europe, and Asia experienced 33 and 26 % of the heat wave and cold spell events, respectively. Additionally, the global pattern for the occurrence frequency of ETEs in recent decades could be largely ascribed to the meteorological indexes: the heat stress index (HSI) and the cold stress index (CSI). The frequency of heat wave events increased from 1981 to 2010, and this trend is consistent with the increase in the HSI. However, the cold spell events did not appear to be reduced, as demonstrated by the disaster records, and this finding is inconsistent with the CSI trend. This result indicates that other factors also influence the occurrence of disaster events.


Heat wave Cold spell Global pattern Climate change Extreme temperature 



This study was funded by the National Basic Research Program of China (2012CB955404), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, and the State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology of Beijing Normal University (2010-ZY-10).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiao Song
    • 1
  • Zhao Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yi Chen
    • 1
  • Pin Wang
    • 1
  • Ming Xiang
    • 2
  • Peijun Shi
    • 1
  • Fulu Tao
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Academy of Disaster Reduction and Emergency ManagementBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Infrastructure PlanningUniversity of StuttgartStuttgartGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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