Reassessing changes in diurnal temperature range: Intercomparison and evaluation of existing global data set estimates

P. W. Thorne, M. G. Donat, R. J. H. Dunn, C. N. Williams, L. V. Alexander, J. Caesar, I. Durre, I. Harris, Z. Hausfather, P.D. Jones, M. J. Menne, R. Rohde, R. S. Vose, R. Davy, A. M. G. Klein-Tank, J. H. Lawrimore, T. C. Peterson, J. J. Rennie

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Abstract

Changes in diurnal temperature range (DTR) over global land areas are compared from a broad range of independent data sets. All data sets agree that global-mean DTR has decreased significantly since 1950, with most of that decrease occurring over 1960–1980. The since-1979 trends are not significant, with inter-data set disagreement even over the sign of global changes. Inter-data set spread becomes greater regionally and in particular at the grid box level. Despite this, there is general agreement that DTR decreased in North America, Europe, and Australia since 1951, with this decrease being partially reversed over Australia and Europe since the early 1980s. There is substantive disagreement between data sets prior to the middle of the twentieth century, particularly over Europe, which precludes making any meaningful conclusions about DTR changes prior to 1950, either globally or regionally. Several variants that undertake a broad range of approaches to postprocessing steps of gridding and interpolation were analyzed for two of the data sets. These choices have a substantial influence in data sparse regions or periods. The potential of further insights is therefore inextricably linked with the efficacy of data rescue and digitization for maximum and minimum temperature series prior to 1950 everywhere and in data sparse regions throughout the period of record. Over North America, station selection and homogeneity assessment is the primary determinant. Over Europe, where the basic station data are similar, the postprocessing choices are dominant. We assess that globally averaged DTR has decreased since the middle twentieth century but that this decrease has not been linear.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5138–5158
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Volume121
Issue number10
Early online date22 Apr 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2016

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