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NOAA releases updated climate normals | Bradon's Barometer

Every 10 years, NOAA releases the new analysis. What does it tell us about climate change?
Credit: WPMT FOX43
Each month for Harrisburg has been warming over the past 30 years.

Every 10 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases updated data over climate "normals." These represent updated averages of temperature, rainfall and other conditions.

These averages are based on the last 30 years: 1991-2021. Which means, be still my heart, 1991 is officially 30 years ago. Moving right along.

The new data helps judge how daily, monthly and annual data has changed in the last three decades, and how that compares to previous studies (the last one being in 2011). Calculated using data from weather stations across the country, we can bring that analysis down to the local level, with our reporting station being Harrisburg International Airport.

The data for temperature at HIA over the last 30 years is pretty clear: we're warming.

Credit: WPMT FOX43
Each month for Harrisburg has been warming over the past 30 years.

Now, you notice that some months have barely changed, while other have drastically changed on average. Two degrees Fahrenheit on average may not seem like a lot. But remember, this is the average temperature, 24 hours in the day, for a whole month. That means our highs are much higher, and our lows are warmer as well. And when put into perspective for the whole year, the rate of increase overall in the last 30 years is even higher.

Credit: Climate Central
Our warming from the 20th century average is more than 1.5°C, or just shy of 3°F.

What does that say about our potential future? You've heard this by now. You can't escape the conversation that's been going on for over a decade. 

We're seeing some of the impact already in terms of average precipitation so far in the last average period. Take a look at the map below.

Credit: WPMT FOX43
U.S. annual precipitation differences to average have become more extreme.

Notice not just more green on the map, indicating more rain, but even more brown in spots as well indicating drier locations. We've had swings in the map compared to the 20th century average, but never this big of a difference in both extremes.


And that's the word meteorologists, climatologists and other atmospheric scientists want you to remember: extreme. Increasing significant/extreme impact events that have already begun thanks to the climate warming. Scientists are currently studying just why the 2020 hurricane season was so active, but hypothesize climate change likely could have been a determining factor. The increasing number of wildfires due to more severe drought is also being investigated. 

And don't forget the melting polar ice caps as well.

It's not just warmer/colder, or wetter/drier, it's about how severe the impacts of our weather events become over time that help prove climate change's impact on the planet. 

The FOX43 Weather Team will be investigating our changing climate's impact on our area in the coming months. You can find the full report just released this week by NOAA, here.

Until next time,

-Chief Meteorologist Bradon Long

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