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Increasing frequency, intensity and duration of observed global heatwaves and warm spells

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Abstract

[1] Using the latest HadGHCND daily temperature dataset, global trends in observed summertime heatwaves and annually calculated warm spells for 1950–2011 are analysed via a multi-index, multi-aspect framework. Three indices that separately focus on maximum temperature (TX90pct), minimum temperature (TN90pct) and average temperature (EHF) were studied with respect to five characteristics of event intensity, frequency and duration. Despite which index is employed, increases in heatwave/warm spell intensity, frequency and duration are found. Furthermore, TX90pct and TN90pct trends are larger and exhibit more significance for warm spells, implying that non-summer events are driving annual trends over some regions. Larger increases in TN90pct aspects relative to EHF and TX90pct are also observed. While qualitative information on event trends is similar across the indices, quantitative values vary. This result highlights the importance of employing the most appropriate index when assessing the impact of sustained extreme temperature events.

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