Mild US Winter 2012 a Sign of Climate Change

March 07, 2012

Americans across the US have been experiencing a mild winter this year.  However, you may also be wondering if the balmy temperatures point to climate change.

According to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), part of the National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), this winter has been particularly warm. Looking at the winter-to-date period (December 2011-January 2012), temperatures across the contiguous United States were the fourth warmest on record.  NCDC data records date back to 1895.

Global warming is a reality regardless of the season.  The contiguous United States has been experiencing a long-term warming trend during all months of the year, including the winter season.  In fact, winter-time temperatures across the lower 48 states have been increasing at about 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit per decade.

There are numerous global patterns and trends which can drive weather across a region of the globe or during a time of year. The warmer-than-average temperatures this season are consistent with climate change.  However, the role of other climate phenomenon cannot be ruled out.  Some other factors which influenced weather conditions this season were the presence of La Niña in the Equatorial Pacific, the North Atlantic Oscillation in the North Atlantic, and the Arctic Oscillation across the High Latitudes.

More information on the “State of the Climate” during this winter season can be found in the NCDC’s online reports.