CR 09:197-211 (1998)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr009197

Climatology of the daily temperature range annual cycle in the United States

Daniel J. Leathers1,*, Michael A. Palecki2, David A. Robinson3, Kenneth F. Dewey2

1Center for Climatic Research, Department of Geography, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716-2541, USA
2Meteorology/Climatology Program, Department of Geography, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588-0135, USA
3Department of Geography, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey 08854, USA

Many researchers are presently interested in detecting long-term trends in annual or seasonal daily temperature range (DTR), and attributing these changes to anthropogenic origins. However, very little work has been done to confirm the mechanisms that are important to determining the long-term average annual cycle of the DTR. Therefore, the focus of this work is to examine the spatial and temporal difference in the DTR average annual cycle across the United States, and to associate the patterns of these cycles with potential causal variables. Three major types of DTR annual cycle exist in the United States: high sun season maximum (northern and western U.S.), low sun season maximum (south central and southeast U.S.), and transitional season maxima (middle latitude in the U.S.). The annual cycles of the DTR in the northern and western U.S. are well related to average annual cycles of cloud cover and dew point temperature; only areas to the west of the Rocky Mountains have a strong linkage between DTR and precipitation frequency annual cycles. Across the northern tier of the U.S., the loss of snow cover is important to DTR transitions during the spring season. However, the onset of snow cover in the fall does not appear to be the major factor in DTR variations, which are instead more strongly associated with cloud cover effects. As expected from their sinusoidal annual cycle, maximum and minimum temperature cycles are linearly related to the DTR in regions with a warm season or cold season DTR maximum, while non-linear relationships exist where the DTR annual cycle has maxima in the transition seasons.


Daily temperature range · United States · Climate change


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