Georgia’s extremely warm winter coupled with above-average summer temperatures are shaping up to make 2017 the hottest year on record for the state. The average temperature in Georgia between January 2017 and June 2017 was 63.8°F. While that temperature alone doesn’t seem too alarming, it’s 3.5°F above the average January to June temperature of 60.3°F. If this trend continues, 2017 will eclipse 2016 as the hottest year in Georgia in 123 years of record keeping.
And it’s not just Georgia. The entire Southeast region is getting hotter. At 2.4 °F above average, 2016 was the hottest year on record for the entire Southeast region. This year the region’s year-to-date average temperature of 3.6°F is on pace to shatter the 2016 record. Worldwide, 2016 was the hottest year on record, besting 2015, which, in turn, bested 2014. Eleven of the 12 warmest years on record have all happened after 2000.
It’s important to look well beyond the number of unusually hot days in assessing the climate. As casual observers we tend to focus on the day’s high temperature and not on the day’s low temperature or on deviations from the norm. Temperatures that are consistently 2 or 3 degrees above average may not seem that significant at the time, but they accumulate to create significant long-term change. A lack of oppressively hot days doesn’t mean that both high temperatures and low temperatures aren’t consistently above average. Atlanta’s average temperature in June of 2017 was actually .1°F below its average June temperature, but the trend is very clearly in the opposite direction.
Conversely, an unusually cold day isn’t proof that the climate isn’t getting warmer. An unusual snowfall in spring in Washington, DC isn’t proof that the climate isn’t getting warmer. Reaching general conclusions from single events fails to take into account both long and short-term patterns. That naivete or willful ignorance could prove to be fatal for many.
Changes of several degrees may not be detectable by humans or seem all that significant, but the impact on other aspects of the global ecosystem will directly affect us. Warmer winters in the UK and New Zealand have led to massive increases in the number of wasps. Viruses like Zika and Rat Lungworm (a parasitic worm that invades the human brain) are being found in new places across the US as temperatures rise and the climate changes.
The Southeastern US is expected to experience drier and warmer temperatures over the next several decades due to climate change. The ocean is expected rise by between 1 and 5 feet, the number of days above 95°F is expected to increase by 97% to 234%, air quality is expected to decline, and pollen counts are expected to rise. This will exacerbate global warfare over clean drinking water, including our own water conflict with Florida and Alabama. The drier conditions and higher sea levels will certainly lead to substantial increases in fire and flood insurance rates.
We’re going to keep track of temperature data released by NOAA each month on the left-hand side of SustainAtlanta page when viewed on your tablet or desktop.