Hottest May. Hottest Year? Temperatures Are Only Going Up From Here!

July 03, 2014

Written By: Sarah Large, 2014 Lamprey Climate Fellow

Land & Ocean Temperature Departure from Average May 2014

“How temperatures around the globe departed from average in May 2014, with warmer-than-normal areas in red and colder-than-normal in blue.”

Credit: NOAA

“Earth’s climate climate changes. It always has and always will.” This is the opening line of Climate Solution New England’s report “Climate Change in Southern New Hampshire: Past, Present, and Future.” This summer I am exploring the changing climate of each state in New England by analyzing several weather indicators, such as temperature and precipitation, with the intent to provide this information to the people who live in New England so they have a reference to how the climate where they live has changed and will change in the future.

The average temperatures across the Northeast have risen more than 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970 and with the way the United States relies on fossil fuels, temperatures in the Northeast are expected to rise 3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit by the middle of this century.  This rise in temperature is significant. In the late 14th century the Little Ice Age was caused by the global temperature only dropping by one to two degrees, therefore a rise in the temperature by 3 to 5 degrees will cause significant and noticeable changes. All of the seasons are getting warmer which will and already has had harmful impacts on New England’s economies, towns, and outdoor activities. The topic of temperature has been discussed often lately. Adam Vaughan, from the Guardian, wrote about this past May being the hottest May on record. What I found the most astonishing from Vaughan’s article was that the majority (13 out of 14) of the warmest years on record have occurred within the 21st century! Surface air temperatures have been getting hotter and the recent years and decades are proof of this.

Building off of last months record high temperatures, Climate Central’s Andrea Thompson wrote that 2014 could be the warmest year on record. She reported that temperatures have been higher than the average for more than 29 years. May was 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average for May, and that “each of the past three decades have been warmer than any other decade since 1850.” It’s getting hot, hot, hot. (For a fun little tune…www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYITD8TMvcM). Throughout my analysis, the rising temperatures and higher amounts of precipitation have been on my mind. New England’s climate is getting warmer and wetter. Summers are hotter, and there is an increase in the number of days with temperatures above 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.  The amount of precipitation has increased in New England and heavy extreme precipitation events are happening more often. Will New England be able to adapt to these changes? How should New Englanders adapt to these changes? Who in New England will be impacted by these changes in climate? Will New Englanders be able to continue their favorite seasonal recreation activates?  How do our daily choices feed into these effects? These, among many more, are the questions that swirl around my mind every day as I crunch numbers and analyze the data I have.  I view this summer as being one step forward in my journey to answer these questions, and stumbling across more questions to analyze and answer. Check out these additional sources for more information: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Mercury Rising: When to Expect the ‘Warmest Day of the Year’.” National Climatic Data Center.  http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/news/mercury-rising-when-expect-warmest-day-year Interactive temperature map of the world. NASA. “Global Temperatures 1880-2009.”  http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/decadaltemp.php  

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