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Cold Snaps Will Be Extreme But Short As Climate Changes Increase

According to Climate Central, while we can still get extreme cold snaps during winter, they’re getting shorter and milder. On average, the coldest day of the year has warmed by 7 degrees across 242 locations in the United States since 1970.

From 1970 to 2021, research showed that winter cold snaps have gotten shorter by six days on average. In 98% of 250 locations. Yearly coldest temperatures rose at least 1°F in 234 (97%) of locations — and by at least 5°F in 179 (74%) of locations. Every U.S. climate region has experienced an average rise of at least 4.6°F in their yearly coldest temperatures since 1970. Coldest days warmed the most on average in the Ohio Valley (8.7°F) and Northwest (8.4°F) regions. The locations with the largest increase in coldest temperatures since 1970 were: Boise, Idaho (15.7°F); Las Vegas, Nev. (14.3°F); Idaho Falls, Idaho (14.3°F); and Reno, Nev. (14°F). Ironically this extreme cold portends even more extreme heat in the summer and Fall months!

Extremely cold days still occur in our warming climate. But as every season warms, extremely cold days are increasingly outnumbered by extremely warm days year-round, including during colder months. Climate Central analyzed daily temperature records over the entire period of record at 247 U.S. locations. Most local observations show daily heat records outnumbering cold records in recent decades.

In other words, even summers get hotter and wet bulb events occur more frequently the winters may get warmer, but cold extremes will still occur. And climate change can also increase the severity of winter storms, as a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture leading to more intense rain or snow when it falls. Due partly to an ongoing El Niño acting on top of long-term warming caused by burning fossil fuels, global temperatures in 2023 were warmer than any previous year on record. A streak of continuously record-shattering months and seasons began in June 2023 and is still ongoing.

The planet’s fever is forecast to continue into 2024 with an extra warming boost from El Niño layered on top of the long-term warming trend driven by carbon pollution. El Niño, the warm ENSO state, is expected to continue through June 2024.


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