Journal article

Summer 2003 maximum and minimum daily temperatures over a 3300 m altitudinal range in the Alps

The summer of 2003 was extremely hot in Western Europe and in the Alps. Here I analyse the role of elevation in the temperatures measured in 2003, and I compare daytime and nighttime values. Records from 16 stations at varying elevations show that, during the night, there was a significant correlation between heat and altitude. Hot nighttime temperatures were particularly frequent at low elevation. The frequency of unusually hot daytime highs was not correlated with altitude, but with the average degree of insolation of the sites. Compared to long-term averaged values (1961-1990) the temperatures were hottest in the normally sunniest sites. The unusual nature of the 2003 heat wave was not the absolute daily extreme values, but the lack of cool temperatures and the large number of very warm days. Averaged over all climate stations, half of the days in summer were hotter than the 90th percentile (climate normals 1961-1990), with up to 72% at some stations.


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