Trends in record-breaking temperatures for the conterminous United States

Clinton M. Rowe, Logan E. Derry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In an unchanging climate, record-breaking temperatures are expected to decrease in frequency over time, as established records become increasingly more difficult to surpass. This inherent trend in the number of record-breaking events confounds the interpretation of actual trends in the presence of any underlying climate change. Here, a simple technique to remove the inherent trend is introduced so that any remaining trend can be examined separately for evidence of a climate change. As this technique does not use the standard definition of a broken record, our records* are differentiated by an asterisk. Results for the period 1961-2010 indicate that the number of record* low daily minimum temperatures has been significantly and steadily decreasing nearly everywhere across the United States while the number of record* high daily minimum temperatures has been predominantly increasing. Trends in record* low and record * high daily maximum temperatures are generally weaker and more spatially mixed in sign. These results are consistent with other studies examining changes expected in a warming climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberL16703
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 28 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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