NOAA releases new Climate Normals spanning 1991-2020

Weather News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information released this week a new 30-year set of ‘Climate Normals,’ which they say provides averages of climatological variables, such as temperature and precipitation.

According to NOAA – the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration – the U.S. Climate Normals are a large suite of data products that provide information about typical climate conditions for thousands of locations across the United States.

The Normals, which are calculated once every ten years, act as a ruler to compare today’s weather and tomorrow’s forecast, and as a predictor of conditions in the future.

Below are some of he highlights from the 1991-2020 dataset:

  • Warming is widespread but not ubiquitous across the U.S., either in geographic space or time of year. Precipitation changes also vary considerably but are generally wetter in the Southeast. Differences in normals vary by month. 
  • Locally, most months were warmer with the biggest differences in the winter, mainly December & January (over 1F difference). November was the main month that had cooler normals. Also, there were more notable differences in the minimum temperatures versus maximum temperatures.
  • The update of Climate Normals reflects recent effects of climate change on our weather. It does not fully capture the effects of climate change over time, nor the totality of the climate record throughout the 20th century. NOAA will continue to use the period 1901–2000 as the baseline for climate change comparisons.  

The 1991–2020 Climate Normals are the latest in a series of decadal normals first produced in the 1950s, according to NOAA. “These data allow travelers to pack the right clothes, farmers to plant the best crop varieties, and utilities to plan for seasonal energy usage,” the agency said in its online report. “Many other important economic decisions that are made beyond the predictive range of standard weather forecasts are either based on or influenced by climate normals.”

You can view monthly/annual normals comparison tables for Charleston International Airport (KCHS) and downtown Charleston (CXM), and a national comparison map.

To view the U.S. Climate Normals data yourself, you can click here to visit NOAA’s website. You’ll find data access, normals comparisons, and access methods to help you review and navigate the data.

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