Have human activities changed the frequencies of absolute extreme temperatures in eastern China?

Jun Wang*, Simon F. B. Tett, Zhongwei Yan, Jinming Feng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Extreme temperatures affect populous regions, like eastern China, causing substantial socio-economic losses. It is beneficial to explore whether the frequencies of absolute or threshold-based extreme temperatures have been changed by human activities, such as anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). In this study, we compared observed and multi-model-simulated changes in the frequencies of summer days, tropical nights, icy days and frosty nights in eastern China for the years 1960-2012 by using an optimal fingerprinting method. The observed long-term trends in the regional mean frequencies of these four indices were +2.36, +1.62, -0.94, -3.02 days decade(-1). The models performed better in simulating the observed frequency change in daytime extreme temperatures than nighttime ones. Anthropogenic influences are detectable in the observed frequency changes of these four temperature extreme indices. The influence of natural forcings could not be detected robustly in any indices. Further analysis found that the effects of GHGs changed the frequencies of summer days (tropical nights, icy days, frosty nights) by +3.48 +/- 1.45 (+2.99 +/- 1.35, -2.52 +/- 1.28, -4.11 +/- 1.48) days decade-1. Other anthropogenic forcing agents (dominated by anthropogenic aerosols) offset the GHG effect and changed the frequencies of these four indices by -1.53 +/- 0.78, -1.49 +/- 0.94, + 1.84 +/- 1.07, + 1.45 +/- 1.26 days decade(-1), respectively. Little influence of natural forcings was found in the observed frequency changes of these four temperature extreme indices.

Original languageEnglish
Article number014012
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number1
Early online date10 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018


  • extreme temperatures
  • human activities
  • greenhouse gases
  • detection and attribution
  • LAND

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