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CR 43:191-205 (2010)  -  DOI:

Statistical modeling of hot spells and heat waves

Eva M. Furrer1,4,*, Richard W. Katz1, Marcus D. Walter2, Reinhard Furrer

1Institute for Mathematics Applied to Geosciences, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado 80307, USA
2Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14850, USA
3Institute of Mathematics, University of Zürich, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland
4Present address: Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, Biostatistics Unit, University of Zürich, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland

ABSTRACT: Although hot spells and heat waves are considered extreme meteorological phenomena, the statistical theory of extreme values has only rarely, if ever, been applied. To address this shortcoming, we extended the point process approach to extreme value analysis to model the frequency, duration, and intensity of hot spells. The annual frequency of hot spells was modeled by a Poisson distribution, and their length by a geometric distribution. To account for the temporal dependence of daily maximum temperatures within a hot spell, the excesses over a high threshold were modeled by a conditional generalized Pareto distribution, whose scale parameter depends on the excess on the previous day. Requiring only univariate extreme value theory, our proposed approach is simple enough to be readily generalized to incorporate trends in hot spell characteristics. Through a heat wave simulator, the statistical modeling of hot spells can be extended to apply to more full-fledged heat waves, which are difficult to model directly. Our statistical model for hot spells was fitted to time series of daily maximum temperature during the summer heat wave season in Phoenix, Arizona (USA), Fort Collins, Colorado (USA), and Paris, France. Trends in the frequency, duration, and intensity of hot spells were fitted as well. The heat wave simulator was used to convert any such trends into the corresponding changes in the characteristics of heat waves. By being based at least in part on extreme value theory, our proposed approach is both more realistic and more flexible than techniques heretofore applied to model hot spells and heat waves.

KEY WORDS: Climate change · Clustering of extremes · Generalized Pareto distribution · Point process approach · Heat wave simulator

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Cite this article as: Furrer EM, Katz RW, Walter MD, Furrer R (2010) Statistical modeling of hot spells and heat waves. Clim Res 43:191-205.

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