We hear a lot about climate change and global warming. On just about any cold winter day, I’m likely to hear more than once, “Hey weatherman, where’s your global warming today?”
Sometimes this is meant as a joke. Sometimes, it’s a political jab. But considering how cold it’s been lately, how can we talk about global warming with a straight face?
It’s because our local climate has warmed about two degrees on average, per day, since the early 1900s. The late 1880s was an extremely cold decade, but ignoring that, our climate warmed about one degree Fahrenheit from the early 1900s into the 1950s. Then it leveled off, even cooled a little in the 60s and 70s before warming another degree since around 1980.
This means on average, every day in our region is about one degree warmer than 40 years ago, and about two degrees warmer than about 100 years ago. That’s measurable, but barely noticeable against the natural variety of daily, weekly, and annual weather. We still have cold snaps.
But a close up look at the statistics reveals some trends. Again, ignoring the very cold 1800's, the average number of nights with temps in the minus 20s each winter has been cut in half in the last hundred years. And those warm, sticky nights with lows above 65 degrees? We’re getting almost three times as many of those as before.
So without getting into the cause, our local climate has warmed and seems to be continuing to do so. Next Wednesday, I’ll investigate how much of this warning is natural and how much is caused by people.