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Recent spatiotemporal patterns in temperature extremes across conterminous United States
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With a warming climate, understanding the physical dynamics of hot and cold extreme events has taken on increased importance for public health, infrastructure, ecosystems, food security, and other domains. Here we use a high-resolution spatial and temporal seamless gridded land surface forcing data set to provide an assessment of recent spatiotemporal patterns in temperature extremes over the conterminous United States (CONUS). We asked the following: (1) How are temperature extremes changing across the different regions of CONUS? (2) How do changes in extremes vary on seasonal, annual, and decadal scales? (3) How do changes in extremes relate to changes in mean conditions? And (4) do extremes relate to major modes of ocean-atmosphere variability? We derive a subset of the CLIMDEX extreme indices from the North American Land Data Assimilation phase 2 forcing data set. While there were warming trends in all indices, daytime temperature extremes warmed more than nighttime. Spring warming was the strongest and most extensive across CONUS, and summer experienced the strongest and most extensive decrease in cold extremes. Increase in winter warm extremes appeared weakening relative to the rapid 1950-1990 increase found in previous studies. The Northeast and Midwest experienced the most warming, while the Northwest and North Great Plains saw the least. We found changes in average temperatures were more associated with changes in cold extremes than warm extremes. Since 2006 there have been 5years when more than 5% of the U.S. experienced at least 90 warm days, something not observed in the previous 25years. The unusually warm first decade of 21st century could have been associated with the warm conditions of near El Nino-Southern Oscillation-neutral phase of the decade, and possibly amplified by anthropogenic forcing. The widespread, lengthy, and severe extreme hot events documented here during the past three decades underscore the need to implement thoughtful adaptation plans in the very near future, to the growing evidence of increasing warm extremes across United States.