By Dawna Matthews:
Here in the United States, the groundhog has seen his shadow and declared another 6 weeks of winter. As I look out my window, I see fluffy flakes of snow fall onto sparkling white as my daughter tries to catch them on her tongue. We even have snow in the forecast for the rest of the week. In the midst of this white glittery goodness and — well — chill, it’s hard to believe that just last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) declared 2013 one of the warmest years on record.
As temperatures fall and a major winter storm spreads across the United States, it may seem that warm sunny days will never return. However, the report from NOAA and other agencies reinforces a long-term trend of global warming on a global scale. According to NOAA, this is how 2013 temperatures rank:
• 2013 ties with 2003 as the fourth warmest year around the world since records began in 1880.
• Including 2013, 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred in the 21st century.
• The global average oceanic temperature for 2013 tied with that of 2006 as the 8th highest annual temperature on record.
• 2013 marked the 37th consecutive year in which global annual temperatures were above the average. This means people born after 1976 have never experienced a cooler average climate!
The polar vortex winter is a reminder that climate is variable all year — day to day and season to season. According to NASA’s deputy director Gavin Schmidt, “ There are times such as today when we can have snow even in a globally warmed world but the long-term trends are very clear.” So, yes, December was, on average, super cold for the United States. But the worldwide average temperature in December was much warmer, the third warmest December on record.
Scientists emphasize that continued increases in greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere are driving a long-term rise in global temperatures. Each year may not be warmer than the year before, but with the current level of greenhouse gas emissions, scientists expect each successive decade to be warmer than the previous. Since 2014 is starting out super cold and snowy, especially in the United States, we are on trend to push hotter temperatures.
All the variable temperatures I have had this winter, whether sunny and warm or snowy and cold, have made me simply appreciate the now and the differences we all experience. It also has made me realize winter is not climate; it’s just what is happening today. How do I cope with all the changes? I just try to enjoy the moment. One day I may be making snow angels but the next, having a picnic; today you might be snuggled up under layers to keep warm, but in July you will be wishing for cold air and maybe even flakes of snow to land on your tongue.
What type of weather have you experienced?
For NOAA’s report findings: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/2013/13)
NASA’s report: http://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/nasa-finds-2013-sustained-long-term-climate-warming-trend/#.Uu8XHii-Lap