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Extreme heat on the rise

Peak high temperatures on land continue to climb despite Earth’s stalled averages

SWELTERING SWING  In the last 15 years, the hottest temperatures on land got hotter (red, with trend line), while multiple datasets of global weather indicate that mean temperatures mostly stayed steady (blue and black). The blue data and trend line are from the European Center for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and the black data and trend line are from the Met Office Hadley Centre.

A surge of heat spikes has struck land in the last 15 years or so, despite an overall plateau of global surface temperatures in the same period.

Researchers are still deciphering the reasons for Earth’s warming hiatus (SN Online: 2/9/14). But the boost in high terrestrial temperatures attests to continuing climate change, scientists argue in the March Nature Climate Change.

In an analysis led by climate scientist Sonia Seneviratne of ETH Zürich, researchers combed through global weather records from 1979 to 2010. The team assessed the area of land experiencing peak highs, defined as days above the 90th percentile of a region’s typical temperature range over the three decades.

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