Record-breaking statistics detect islands of cooling in a sea of warming

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Department of Physics


Record-breaking statistics are combined here with geographic mode of exploration to construct a new object: a record-breaking map. Such maps are shown here to reveal surprisingly robust statistical results and spatial content. Specifically, we examine a time series of sea surface temperature (SST) values and show that high SST records have been broken far more frequently than the expected rate for a trend-free random variable (TFRV) over the vast majority of oceans (83 % of the grid cells). This, together with the asymmetry between high and low records and their deviation from a TRFV, indicate SST warming over most oceans, obtained by using a general and simple-to-use method. The spatial patterns of this warming are coherent and reveal islands of cooling, such as the "cold blob" in the North Atlantic and a surprising elliptical area in the Southern Ocean, near the Ross sea gyre, not previously reported.

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