Thursday, February 22, 2018

East Coast Shatters Temperature Records, Offering Preview to a Warming World

Summer-like temps in February, extreme rainfall, a snow drought.  This is happening more often—and in line with what scientists warn to expect with climate change.

 Thermometers registered record highs across the eastern U.S. in mid-February. The map shows temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit on Feb. 21, 2018, at 1 p.m. EST. (Credit: National Weather Service) Click to Enlarge.
There are records—like Wednesday being the earliest 80-degree day in Washington, D.C., history—and then there are the eye-popping effects of those records, like seeing people wearing T-shirts on the streets of Portland, Maine, in February.

However you measure it, Feb. 20-21, 2018, were days for the books—days when the records fell as quickly as the thermometer rose, days that gave a glimpse into the wacky weather that the new era of climate change brings.

"What we have is a large-scale pattern that wouldn't be too uncommon in the spring," said meteorologist Patrick Burke of the National Weather Service.  "But it's a little bit unusual to see it set up this way in February—and set up with such persistence."

Central Park hit 76°F. Boston had back-to-back 70°F days.  Towns in Virginia and Vermont were pushing 80°F, with some Vermont towns warning residents that rapid snowmelt from the heat could cause a new round of flooding.  In Pittsburgh a high of 78°F beat a record set in 1891 by a whopping 10 degrees.

The warm temperatures do feel strange this time of year, but it's easy to forget that this isn't the only abnormally hot February in recent years.  February 2017 saw extraordinary temperatures, too.  February 2016?  Same thing.

It's been happening with greater frequency—and in line with what scientists have said to expect as the world warms.

"It used to be said that 'scientists can't say anything about an individual event.'  That statement is patently false now," said Michael Wehner, a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  "We can say lots about individual events, and we have."

"Climate change is not a future problem.  It's a present-day problem," he said.

Read more at East Coast Shatters Temperature Records, Offering Preview to a Warming World

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