Latest data on the “normal” climate and temperature variables in the U.S. has revealed that most parts of the country are getting wetter and warmer every decade.
“Normals” are determined based on different weather-related factors like precipitation and temperature that have been tabulated over the last 30 years by researchers. The numbers are then converted into averages for that 30-year period. The “normals” are updated and reviewed every 10 years by scientists from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
The normals for the last decade, with data from 1991 to 2020, were recently released by the NCDC. The last report had data from 1981 to 2010. The numbers released in the latest report indicate that the country is becoming warmer every decade. The eastern part of the country has also become a lot more wetter, while the western part of the country has, in fact, become drier.
Bernadette Woods Placky, the chief meteorologist and Climate Matters program director at Climate Central, said increasing temperatures can impact precipitation patterns. What this means is that as the planet continues to heat up, the water on the surface will evaporate faster into the atmosphere, which will lead to heavier rainfalls. However, given that the atmosphere on Earth is always trying to maintain equilibrium, not all places will receive more rainfall. As dry regions get even drier, there is a lot less moisture to evaporate, which essentially allows more of the sun’s energy to heat up the surface. This is what causes the rapid warming of certain regions.
Placky explained that dry areas, like the West, will see really strong downpours when it does finally rain. She added that the release of such data every decade helps provide “a moment to pause and reflect and really take a look at the bigger picture.”