We investigated the spatial characteristics of heat extremes in South Korea from the climatological mean perspective. A heat extreme was defined as a day when the daily maximum temperature was higher than 33 °C. According to our analyses, the eastern area of the Sobaek and Taebaek mountain ranges (hereafter called the eastern district) is significantly more exposed to heat extremes compared to other areas. The onset date and total number of days of annual heat extremes in the eastern district are approximately 13 days earlier and 3 days higher than those in the western district on average, respectively. Likewise, the annual mean of daily maximum temperatures during heat extreme days are approximately 0.25 °C higher. This larger exposure to heat extremes in the eastern district appears to be attributable to the Föhn phenomenon, which is likely induced by the dominant southwesterly monsoon during the early-to-peak summer. In contrast, differences in the ending dates of annual heat extremes are not noticeable between the eastern and western districts, when the southerly winds are dominant. Our analyses suggest that heat extremes in South Korea cannot be understood by a simple function of latitude, but in conjunction with atmospheric physical processes.
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