Changes in the frequencies of extremes are investigated by a variety of methods using daily temperature data from the British Isles, and monthly 5° latitude × 5° longitude grid-box temperatures over the land and marine regions of the world. The 225 year long daily Central England Temperature record shows no significant increase in very warm days in recent years but there is a marked decrease in the frequency of very cold days. Thus the rise in temperature in the last two decades is principally associated with a reduction in very cold days. Temperatures on days with particular wind circulation or pressure pattern types over the British Isles show multidecadal variations. Analyses using monthly gridded temperature data around the world since 1951 indicate that the recent rise in global surface temperatures is accompanied both by reductions in the areas affected by extremely cool temperatures and by increases in the areas with extremely warm temperatures.