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Keywords:

  • empirical probability distribution function;
  • statistical modelling;
  • generalized extreme value distribution;
  • climate change

ABSTRACT

This paper proposes a method for describing the distribution of observed temperatures on any day of the year such that the distribution and summary statistics of interest derived from the distribution vary smoothly through the year. The method removes the noise inherent in calculating summary statistics directly from the data thus easing comparisons of distributions and summary statistics between different periods. The method is demonstrated using daily effective temperatures (DET) derived from observations of temperature and wind speed at De Bilt, Holland. Distributions and summary statistics are obtained from 1985 to 2009 and compared to the period 1904–1984. A two-stage process first obtains parameters of a theoretical probability distribution, in this case the generalized extreme value (GEV) distribution, which describes the distribution of DET on any day of the year. Second, linear models describe seasonal variation in the parameters. Model predictions provide parameters of the GEV distribution, and therefore summary statistics, that vary smoothly through the year. There is evidence of an increasing mean temperature, a decrease in the variability in temperatures mainly in the winter and more positive skew, more warm days, in the summer. In the winter, the 2% point, the value below which 2% of observations are expected to fall, has risen by 1.2 °C, in the summer the 98% point has risen by 0.8 °C. Medians have risen by 1.1 and 0.9 °C in winter and summer, respectively. The method can be used to describe distributions of future climate projections and other climate variables. Further extensions to the methodology are suggested.