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The New Normal For U.S. Weather

On May 4, 2021 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued its once a decade report on the status of United States weather over the previous thirty year period.  The report called U.S. Climate Normals, provides a compilation of the observations from local weather stations throughout the United States during the period from 1991 through 2020.

“Simply stated: The Normals are the basis for judging how daily, monthly and annual climate conditions compare to what’s normal for a specific location in today’s climate.”

The data was first collected for the period from 1901 to 1930. NOAA has prepared maps for each 30 year period, as compiled in ten year intervals (1901-1930, 1911-1940 and so on) comparing annual temperatures and precipitation. The maps clearly show the “,,,influence of long-term global warming…”.

Annual U.S. temperature compared to the 20th-century average for each U.S. Climate Normals period from 1901-1930 (upper left) to 1991-2020 (lower right). Places where the normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more colder than the 20th-century average are darkest blue; places where normal annual temperature was 1.25 degrees or more warmer than the 20th-century average are darkest red. Maps by NOAA, based on analysis by Jared Rennie, North Carolina Institute for Climate Studies/NCEI.


The precipitation maps are said to demonstrate a shifting of wet and dry areas over the decades. “And yet, it’s probably not a coincidence that the last four maps in the series — the 1961-1990, 1971-2000, 1981-2010 and 1991-2020 Normals — are nationally the four wettest-looking maps in the collection. At least some of that wetness relative to the 20th-century average is linked to the overall climate warming and ‘wetting’ of the atmosphere that’s occurred as rising temperatures cause more water to evaporate from the ocean and land surface.”

The conclusions regarding the new normal is consistent with a report issued by NOAA in January of this year for the year 2020. That report noted that 2020 was the fifth warmest year in the United States, since records began being kept in 1890. However, 2020 was not an anomaly as all five of the warmest years have been since 2012.

Discussing just the year 2020, the January report noted:

“Ten states across the Southwest, Southeast and East Coast had their second-warmest year on record. There were no areas of below-average annual temperatures observed across the Lower 48 states during 2020. In Alaska, despite temperatures running 1.5 degrees F above the long-term average, the state saw its coldest year since 2012.”

In addition, 2020 had 22 disasters linked to weather and climate that caused one billion dollars or more in damage.


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