Climate Shifts Changing New Weather “Normals”


2011-01-07 Scientific American, Climatewire
As the new decade opens up, researchers are gathering data that will redefine weather pattern averages for the nation [USA]

NEW NORMAL: In the past decade, January average minimum temperatures rose nationally by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of the nation warming except for a cooling in Florida and nearby areas.  Image: Map courtesy ncdc.noaa.gov

NEW NORMAL: In the past decade, January average minimum temperatures rose nationally by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of the nation warming except for a cooling in Florida and nearby areas. Image: Map courtesy ncdc.noaa.gov

NEW NORMAL: In the past decade, January average minimum temperatures rose nationally by 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of the nation warming except for a cooling in Florida and nearby areas. Image: Map courtesy ncdc.noaa.gov

As the new decade opens up, researchers are gathering data that will redefine weather pattern averages for the nation.

The “new normals” will update the averages for temperatures, rainfall and snow. A climate normal bases itself on the weather patterns of a particular region over a 30-year period. Every decade, in accordance with international agreements, the National Climate Data Center releases new temperature and rain and snowfall normals for 10,000 regions across the country.

This may sound like an academic or a laboratory exercise, but for some businessmen, utility regulators, wildlife agencies and others, tinkering with the meaning of “normal” can mean big changes. They range from future sales and budgetary issues to difficulties with songbirds and trout.

The current normals rely on weather patterns that occurred between 1971 and 2000. The new normals, which will be released later in the year, will drop the 1970s — a decade marked by cool temperatures — and add the hottest recorded decade in history, the 2000s. …

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