In this study we analyse gridded observed and multi-model simulated trends in the annual number of warm nights during the second half of the 20th century. We show that there is evidence that external forcing has significantly increased the number of warm nights, both globally and over many regions. We define thirteen regions with a high density of observational data over two datasets, for which we compare observed and simulated trends from 20th century simulations. The main analysis period is 1951–1999, with a sub-period of 1970–1999. In order to investigate if observed trends changed past 1999, we also analysed periods of 1955–2003 and 1974–2003. Both observed and ensemble mean model data from all models analysed show a positive trend for the regional mean number of warm nights in all regions within this 49 year period (1951–1999). The trends tend to become more pronounced over the sub-period 1970–1999 and even more so up to 2003. We apply a fingerprint analysis to assess if trends are detectable relative to internal climate variability. We find that changes in the global scale analysis, and in 9 out of 13 regions, are detectable at the 5% significance level. A large part of the observed global-scale trend in TN90 results from the trend in mean temperature, which has been attributed largely to anthropogenic greenhouse gas increase. This suggests that the detected global-scale trends in the number of warm nights are at least partly anthropogenic.