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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Physics (PhD)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Physics

First Advisor

Alexander B Kostinski


The number of record-breaking events expected to occur in a strictly stationary time-series depends only on the number of values in the time-series, regardless of distribution. This holds whether the events are record-breaking highs or lows and whether we count from past to present or present to past. However, these symmetries are broken in distinct ways by trends in the mean and variance. We define indices that capture this information and use them to detect weak trends from multiple time-series. Here, we use these methods to answer the following questions: (1) Is there a variability trend among globally distributed surface temperature time-series? We find a significant decreasing variability over the past century for the Global Historical Climatology Network (GHCN). This corresponds to about a 10% change in the standard deviation of inter-annual monthly mean temperature distributions. (2) How are record-breaking high and low surface temperatures in the United States affected by time period? We investigate the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) and find that the ratio of record-breaking highs to lows in 2006 increases as the time-series extend further into the past. When we consider the ratio as it evolves with respect to a fixed start year, we find it is strongly correlated with the ensemble mean. We also compare the ratios for USHCN and GHCN (minus USHCN stations). We find the ratios grow monotonically in the GHCN data set, but not in the USHCN data set. (3) Do we detect either mean or variance trends in annual precipitation within the United States? We find that the total annual and monthly precipitation in the United States (USHCN) has increased over the past century. Evidence for a trend in variance is inconclusive.