Detecting inhomogeneities in the Twentieth Century Reanalysis over the central United States

Craig R. Ferguson, Gabriele Villarini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The Twentieth Century Reanalysis (20CR), which spans the 138year period from 1871 to 2008, was intended for a variety of climate applications, including long-term trend assessment. Because over land 20CR only assimilates surface pressure observations and their count increases by an order of magnitude over the course of the record, a key question is whether the 20CR is homogenous and hence suitable for detecting climate-related changes. We use three statistical methods (Pettitt and Bai-Perron tests and segmented regression) to detect abrupt shifts in multiple hydrometeorological variable mean and uncertainty fields over the central United States. For surface air temperature and precipitation, we use the Climate Research Unit (CRU) time series data set for comparison. We find that for warm-season months, there is a consensus change point among all variables between 1940 and 1950, which is not substantiated by the CRU record. While we cannot say with certainty that these shifts in the 20CR analysis fields are artificial, our statistical analyses, coupled with a visual inspection of the underlying assimilated observational count time series, strongly point to this conclusion. Our recommendation is therefore for users to restrict climate trend applications over the central United States to the second half century of the 20CR record, after observational density has stabilized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberD05123
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Materials Chemistry
  • Polymers and Plastics
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry


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