Global WarmingScience

EPA's "Climate Change Indicators in the US" report: What's Up with Weather and Climate?

Continuing our coverage of the EPA’s new Climate Change Indicators in the US report, below are key summary findings regarding weather and climate.

More heat waves, tropical cyclones, floods, precipitation, and also perhaps drought in some areas — watch out!

The following text comes directly from the US EPA’s “Summary of Key Findings” [PDF]:


Weather and Climate

U.S. and Global Temperature. Average temperatures have risen across the lower 48 states since 1901, with an increased rate of warming over the past 30 years. Seven of the top 10 warmest years on record for the lower 48 states have occurred since 1990, and the last 10 five-year periods have been the warmest five-year periods on record. Average global temperatures show a similar trend, and 2000–2009 was the warmest decade on record worldwide. Within the United States, parts of the North, the West, and Alaska have seen temperatures increase the most.

Heat Waves. The frequency of heat waves in the United States decreased in the 1960s and 1970s, but has risen steadily since then. The percentage of the United States experiencing heat waves has also increased. The most severe heat waves in U.S. history remain those that occurred during the “Dust Bowl” in the 1930s, although average temperatures have increased since then.

Drought. Over the period from 2001 through 2009, roughly 30 to 60 percent of the U.S. land area experienced drought conditions at any given time. However, the data for this indicator have not been collected for long enough to determine whether droughts are increasing or decreasing over time.

U.S. and Global Precipitation. Average precipitation has increased in the United States and worldwide. Since 1901, precipitation has increased at an average rate of more than 6 percent per century in the lower 48 states and nearly 2 percent per century worldwide. However, shifting weather patterns have caused certain areas, such as Hawaii and parts of the Southwest, to experience less precipitation than they used to.

Heavy Precipitation. In recent years, a higher percentage of precipitation in the United States has come in the form of intense single-day events. Eight of the top 10 years for extreme one-day precipitation events have occurred since 1990. The occurrence of abnormally high annual precipitation totals has also increased.

Tropical Cyclone Intensity. The intensity of tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico did not exhibit a strong long-term trend for much of the 20th century, but has risen noticeably over the past 20 years. Six of the 10 most active hurricane seasons have occurred since the mid-1990s. This increase is closely related to variations in sea surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic.

For more detailed information on weather and climate, visit the EPA’s Weather and Climate PDF.

For info on snow and ice, the oceans or greenhouse gases, visit our other posts in this series.

Image Credit: Grant MacDonald via flickr/CC license
Graph Credits: US EPA’s Weather and Climate PDF

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