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The National Weather Service's bulletins often mention when extreme weather deviates from normal. But normal is changing.
This time next year, the weather service's 30-year average will roll over from patterns representing 1981 to 2010 to patterns established between 1991 and 2020. That shift means that an extra 2.5 inches of precipitation, less early winter snowfall, and warmer summer nights will all become normal.
Weather - Service - Issues - Updates - Decade
The weather service issues these updates every decade to help the nation's forecasters accurately communicate about their regions. At the same time, adjusting what counts as normal might obscure how global warming has changed climates around the country since the Industrial Revolution.
"Hopefully there will be some press around 2021 that the climate normals are changing, and just because we've re-established the baseline for what is normal doesn't negate what came before," says Jordan Gerth, a weather scientist who recently left the University of Wisconsin–Madison to join the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C. He still holds an honorary fellowship on campus.
Research - Gerth - Changes - Madison - Climate
To assist his own research, Gerth analyzed the changes to Madison's average climate that will be official next year. While the 2020 data aren't yet included, Gerth's analysis shows Madison has become warmer and wetter over the last 40 years.
Compared to the decade from 1981 to 1990, Madison has experienced an average of eight additional inches of precipitation a year since 2011. Four of Wisconsin's five wettest years have taken place in the last decade, and 2019 was the soggiest year for both Wisconsin and the entire contiguous U.S. since record keeping began in 1895. This new normal was on stark display in 2018, when Dane County was deluged with record-breaking rainfall that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.
Temperatures - Overnight - Temperatures - Temperatures
Warmer temperatures are also increasingly normal. Overnight low temperatures have risen more than daily high temperatures,...
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