Changes in precipitation and temperature extremes in Central America and northern South America, 1961–2003

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Abstract

[1] In November 2004, a regional climate change workshop was held in Guatemala with the goal of analyzing how climate extremes had changed in the region. Scientists from Central America and northern South America brought long-term daily temperature and precipitation time series from meteorological stations in their countries to the workshop. After undergoing careful quality control procedures and a homogeneity assessment, the data were used to calculate a suite of climate change indices over the 1961–2003 period. Analysis of these indices reveals a general warming trend in the region. The occurrence of extreme warm maximum and minimum temperatures has increased while extremely cold temperature events have decreased. Precipitation indices, despite the large and expected spatial variability, indicate that although no significant increases in the total amount are found, rainfall events are intensifying and the contribution of wet and very wet days are enlarging. Temperature and precipitation indices were correlated with northern and equatorial Atlantic and Pacific Ocean sea surface temperatures. However, those indices having the largest significant trends (percentage of warm days, precipitation intensity, and contribution from very wet days) have low correlations to El Niño–Southern Oscillation. Additionally, precipitation indices show a higher correlation with tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

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