Sustainability Climate Change

New report says winters in US are getting ‘extraordinarily warm’

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Story at a glance

  • Nonprofit group Climate Central released a new report detailing how much winter temperatures have shifted because of climate change.
  • The winter season had a rise in normal temperatures well over 1 degree Fahrenheit within nearly every region of the country.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the U.S. has sustained 285 weather and climate disasters from 1980 to 2020, where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion.

Climate change has disrupted normal climate patterns in many ways, causing more severe rainstorms, heatwaves and wildfires, and new research has found the winter season has experienced the largest and most widespread rise in normal temperatures in nearly every region of the country. 

Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and journalists reporting on climate change, found that the winter season had a rise in normal temperatures well over 1 degree Fahrenheit within nearly every region of the country.  

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines U.S. climate normals as the baseline for today’s weather and a predictor of conditions in the future. Official normals are calculated in a 30-year period, taking into account annual/seasonal, monthly, daily and hourly averages of temperature, precipitation and other climate variables from almost 15,000 U.S. weather stations.  

Climate Central found that NOAA’s climate normals for 1991 to 2020 were 0.4 to 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit warmer on average than the previous 30-year period from 1981 to 2010. 


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Though those temperature fluctuations may seem small, they can cause serious damage as the number of recent extreme weather events illustrates. From 1980 to 2020, NOAA says the U.S. has sustained 285 weather and climate disasters, where the overall damage costs reached or exceeded $1 billion.  

The cumulative cost for those 285 events exceeded $1.875 trillion. 

An analysis by The Guardian found that warmer winters can affect the migration of animals, push up yearly pollen allergy season and impact farming for crops that need vital winter chill hours to harvest in the spring and summer season. 

Even the Arctic is feeling the effects of a warmer planet, with the average surface air temperature over the Arctic from October 2020 to October 2021 becoming the seventh warmest on record, according to NOAA. 

Looking at the winter season temperature changes more closely, Climate Central said Jackson, Idaho, had the largest increase at 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. California, New Mexico, Texas and Utah also had some of the largest increases in normal temperatures for each season from fall to winter. 

“The fact that we’re in the ballpark of the record warming year suggests that global warming is starting to really overpower some of these natural climate cycles,” said Andrew Pershing, director of climate science at Climate Central, to The Guardian. 


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