Articles | Volume 12, issue 5
Research article
24 May 2012
Research article |  | 24 May 2012

Temperature extremes in Europe: overview of their driving atmospheric patterns

C. Andrade, S. M. Leite, and J. A. Santos

Abstract. As temperature extremes have a deep impact on environment, hydrology, agriculture, society and economy, the analysis of the mechanisms underlying their occurrence, including their relationships with the large-scale atmospheric circulation, is particularly pertinent and is discussed here for Europe and in the period 1961–2010 (50 yr). For this aim, a canonical correlation analysis, coupled with a principal component analysis (BPCCA), is applied between the monthly mean sea level pressure fields, defined within a large Euro-Atlantic sector, and the monthly occurrences of two temperature extreme indices (TN10p – cold nights and TX90p – warm days) in Europe. Each co-variability mode represents a large-scale forcing on the occurrence of temperature extremes. North Atlantic Oscillation-like patterns and strong anomalies in the atmospheric flow westwards of the British Isles are leading couplings between large-scale atmospheric circulation and winter, spring and autumn occurrences of both cold nights and warm days in Europe. Although summer couplings depict lower coherence between warm and cold events, important atmospheric anomalies are key driving mechanisms. For a better characterization of the extremes, the main features of the statistical distributions of the absolute minima (TNN) and maxima (TXX) are also examined for each season. Furthermore, statistically significant downward (upward) trends are detected in the cold night (warm day) occurrences over the period 1961–2010 throughout Europe, particularly in summer, which is in clear agreement with the overall warming.