Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Here's another headline you should probably get used to reading: Warmest winter ever

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Tuesday that this was the warmest winter ever recorded for the 48 contiguous states in the 122 years records have been kept. Alaska had its second warmest winter. This followed the warmest fall ever for the contiguous states. And the hottest year on record. And it appears last month was probably the hottest February on record: 

The December-February average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 36.8°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 36.5°F set in 1999/2000. The exceptionally warm December boosted the contiguous U.S. winter temperature. The February temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 39.5°F, 5.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking as the seventh warmest on record and warmest since 2000.

The news wasn’t unexpected, since a strong El Niño typically creates warmer temperatures across the northernmost states. But that weather pattern played out against a larger pattern of global warming, NOAA stated.

Other anomalous occurrences—weather extremes—were of the type that climate scientists have predicted. New York City, for instance, had one of its snowiest and warmest winters on record.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus at Slate writes:

This year, all six New England states were record warm, and there was only one tiny speck of blue on the entire wintertime temperature map of the lower 48, though you’d probably need a magnifying glass to find it. (Hint: It’s near Yellowstone National Park.) Alaska’s winter was more than 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal—continuing a streak of recent exceptionally warm winters that’s raised questions about the future of the legendary Iditarod sled dog race, which is currently underway.

Global warming chart

It’s happening, and it’s going to get worse. But impacts can be ameliorated if we take action to keep fossil fuels in the ground, something that can only be achieved if we rapidly transform our energy, transportation, and agricultural systems. And if we dump the deniers and delayers in Congress, in state legislatures, and—harder still, obviously—in industry.

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