The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: New Warming Winter Statistics from Climate Central
Dear Diary. The calendar is just about to flip from meteorological fall into winter. Usually by November we see one or two deadly “early” winter storms somewhere in the United States but not this year. It has been a very mild fall, and when the National Center for Environmental Information processes data, fall 2021 may be a top 20 warmest fall, if not a top ten. We are getting into the time of year in which we actually see some benefits of climate change in which deadly winter chill becomes less severe overall. And yet, as we saw in February 2021, we can still get climate change induced sever arctic outbreaks…just ask Texas and much of the south-central U.S.
Jet steam buckling and amplification is actually more likely the next several years as warmth from mid latitudes is more likely to move into polar regions affecting the polar vortex. This weekend Europe is experiencing an early dose of an arctic intrusion:
Even if we have an overall mild winter across the lower 48 states, and that’s no guarantee, there will be some cold, deadly weather. As we move further out in time this century, though, winters may become so warm that older people will hardly recognize them. Here is Climate Central’s take on this angle:
2021 Winter Package
NOV 23, 2021
Climate Central breaks down four key concepts to highlight when discussing climate change and the winter season.
- This year’s Winter Package looks at local and national trends in winter average temperatures and winter days above normal since 1970.
- Four key points to highlight when discussing climate change and the winter season in the U.S.:
- The winter season isn’t as cold as it used to be 50 years ago.
- Since 1970, winter is the fastest-warming season for the majority of the U.S.
- There can still be cold winters under climate change.
- Warming winters can have negative impacts on our health and regional economies.
The first day of meteorological winter (December 1st) is next week. In preparation for the chilly season, we’ve updated our annual Winter Package. This year’s installment includes data and graphics for:
- Average Winter Temperatures since 1970 (local trends and a national map)
- Winter Days Above Normal since 1970 (local trends)
Discussing the warming winter season can be confusing. Here are four important concepts to highlight when discussing climate change and the winter season:
- The winter season isn’t as cold as it used to be 50 years ago.
Using 52 years (1970-2021) of winter temperature data in 246 locations across the U.S, our analysis shows:
- About 98% (241) locations had an increase in their average winter temperatures since 1970, with 84% (202 of 241) of those locations warming by 2°F or more.
- Winter warming is greatest in the Great Lakes and Northeast region. The five greatest increases are seen in Burlington, Vt. (7.2°F), Concord, N.H. (6°F), Milwaukee (6°F), Chattanooga, Tenn. (5.8°F), and Green Bay, Wis. (5.8°F).
- About 74% (183) of the locations had at least 7 more days above the 1991-2020 winter normal temperatures since 1970.
- Since 1970, winter is the fastest-warming season for most of the U.S. All seasons are feeling the effect of climate change but a Climate Central analysis shows that, over the past 50 years, average temperatures increased more in winter than in any other season for 38 out of 49 states (excluding Hawaii).
- There can still be cold winters under climate change. The likelihood of extreme cold conditions in a warming world is decreasing but it is not zero. Some locations will still experience extreme cold or cold records—just not as cold or for as long as in the past.
- Although a majority of the U.S. has experienced an increase in winter temperatures, some northern states, including the Dakotas and Montana, have had colder winter temperatures since 1970.
- Some extreme cold spells occur when polar air spills south. Whether or how climate change may be linked with extreme winter weather in the mid-latitudes of the U.S., such as the February 2021 cold wave in Texas, is still an active area of research.
- Warming winters may sound great at first, but they can have negative impacts on our health and regional economies.
- Migrating pests: Disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes and ticks can migrate to regions that were previously too cold to inhabit.
- Less snow and ice for winter sports: The multi-billion dollar winter recreation industry, which includes skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, could take an economic hit because of rising temperatures and less snow/ice accumulation.
- Water supply risk: Warmer winters can lead to declining snowpacks in the West—a necessary source of meltwater that helps refill reservoir levels and irrigate crops in the spring.
- Lower fruit yields: Cherry, apple, and peach trees require a minimum number of winter chill hours before they can develop fruit in the subsequent spring and summer months. With the warming winter trends, this chill period is decreasing and could eventually limit fruit development.
POTENTIAL LOCAL STORY ANGLES
What’s the snow forecast in your area?
The National Weather Service (NWS) has a Winter Weather Desk, which provides twice-daily updated forecasts for snow, freezing rain, and other wintry conditions around the country. You can find local information from your nearby NWS office here, and you can also see snow reports at specific ski resorts here.
How is climate change impacting winter activities near you?
For more general information on climate change and the snow sports industry, check out Climate Central’s On Thin Ice report, the Protect Our Winters website, or NOAA’s Climate and Skiing report. For more region specific data, the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has a list of different industry statistics to analyze.
The SciLine service, 500 Women Scientists or the press offices of local universities may be able to connect you with local scientists who have expertise on the warming winter season. The American Association of State Climatologists is a professional scientific organization composed of all 50 state climatologists.
- Amy Butler, PhD, Research Scientist
Chemistry & Climate Processes, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- Elizabeth Burakowsi, PhD, Research Assistant Professor
Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire
Expertise: Winter sports industry
Average temperatures and days above normal were calculated for each winter (December, January, February) from 1969-70 to 2020-21 using data obtained from the Applied Climate Information System. Winter days above normal are defined as the number of days where the average temperature was above the 1991-2020 NOAA/NCEI climate normal. Climate Central’s local analyses include 247 stations. However, for data summaries based on linear trends, only 246 stations are included due to large data gaps in Wheeling, W.Va.
NOV 11, 2020
All of our seasons are feeling the impact of climate change, with winters warming the fastest across most of the country. Higher temperatures during the colder season can impact our crops, our health, and winter sports.
FEB 10, 2021
Frigid air from the Arctic has descended on the lower 48 states this week, bringing the coldest air of the season. But as greenhouse gas emissions continue to drive climate change, cold extremes are just not as cold as they used to be across the country.
JAN 20, 2021
For much of the country, winter is entering its coldest stretch. But climate change means our coldest days have been getting warmer—a trend which has consequences for winter recreation, pests, and agriculture.
Here is more climate and weather news from Saturday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”