The return period of the 2003 heat wave

The paper on “on the return period of the 2003 heat wave” has been published online here, before Christmas. It should be published soon by Climatic Change,

Extremal events are difficult to model since it is difficult to characterize formally those events. The 2003 heat wave in Europe was not characterized by very high temperatures, but mainly the fact that night temperature were no cool enough for a long period of time. Hence, simulation of several models (either with heavy tailed noise or long range dependence) yield different estimations for the return period of that extremal event.

To go further on the impact on mortality (which was not the aim of the paper), there is a paper in Nature (here).

Cite this blog post
Arthur Charpentier (2011, January 2). The return period of the 2003 heat wave. Freakonometrics. Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

One thought on “The return period of the 2003 heat wave”

  1. In the paper, I wrote that “summer of 2003 was by far the hottest summer since 1500”, from Luterbacher et al. (2003). Dr. Luterbacher has asked the editors to publish an erratum because, he asserts, this statement does not in fact appear in the article cited. I put a comment here with a short addendum,

    In my article, On the return period of the 2003 heat wave (Climatic Change, this volume), the sentence “summer of 2003 was by far the hottest summer since 1500” is wrongly attributed to ‘Luterbacher et al. (2003)’. My probable intent was to cite Casty et al. (2005) which actually states “the years 1994, 2000, 2002 and particularly 2003 were the warmest since 1500”. Note that a similar statement can also be found in Stott et al (2004), “The summer of 2003 was probably the hottest in Europe since at latest ad 1500”.

    Regarding the statement (in reference to Luterbacher et al, which was actually published in 2004) that “their estimate of the return period of that event is 250 years”, the attribution again is incorrect. Such an estimate can be found in Brown et al. (2005), “best estimate of a 1 in 250 year event” or Lowe et al. (2004) ” the same event is likely to occur much more frequently; most likely, once every 250 years”, among others.

    I regret these inappropriate attributions and inadequate referencing.

    S Brown, P Stott, and R Clark Temperature Extremes, the Past and the Future. Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research Working Paper. [online

    C Casty, H Wanner, J Luterbacher, J Esper and R Böhm (2005). Temperature and precipitation variability in the European Alps since 1500. International Journal of Climatology Volume 25, Issue 14, 30 November 2005, Pages: 1855–1880,

    Lowe, J and Smith, F and Jenkins, G and Pope, V (2004). Uncertainty, risk and dangerous climate change. Hadley Centre [online

    J Luterbacher, D Dietrich, E Xoplaki, MGrosjean, H Wanner (2004) European Seasonal and Annual Temperature Variability, Trends, and Extremes Since 1500. Science 303: 1499-1503.

    P. A. Stott, D. A. Stone & M. R. Allen (2004) Human contribution to the European heatwave of 2003. Nature 432, 610-614 (2 December 2004)

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