Decadal-scale changes in the tails of probability distribution functions of climate variables in Switzerland



An analysis of several Swiss climatological sites reveals that a substantial change in the behaviour of pressure, minimum and maximum temperature extremes has occurred in the past two decades. Extreme cold tails defined by the 10% quantiles of temperature drop by a factor of 2 or 3, while the upper tails (beyond the 90% quantile) exhibit a four- or five-fold increase in all seasons. Pressure shows contrasting behaviour, with increases in wintertime highs and summertime lows, while precipitation shows little change. On the basis of the observed datasets, temperature biases related to extremes of pressure or precipitation have been computed, as well as for joint combinations of precipitation and pressure extremes. The most dominant bias is associated with periods without rainfall, during which temperatures are at least 1 °C warmer than otherwise. Changes in the behaviour of joint combinations of extreme pressure and precipitation regimes also have a discernible influence on temperatures. Copyright © 2008 Royal Meteorological Society