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CNY has gotten wetter, whiter and warmer, new weather normals show

Most of the U.S. has gotten warmer in the most recent 30-year climate period, 1991-2020, compared to 1981-2010.

Syracuse, N.Y. -- Central New York has gotten wetter, warmer and snowier, according to the new climate normals issued today by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The normals are a rolling average that resets climate trends every 30 years. The numbers released today are for 1991 to 2020, and they’ll now be the reference point anytime you read a story that compares Syracuse weather to normal.

Syracuse followed the trends of the Eastern U.S., which also showed a warming trend with more precipitation over the previous 30-year normal period, which was 1981 to 2010. NOAA didn’t release national trends on snowfall.

The 1991-2020 normals compared to 1981-2010 show that Syracuse is:

-- Warmer. The average temperature has climbed by 0.3 degrees in the 1991-2020 period. The average high temperature stayed the same, but the overall average was pulled up by higher overnight temperatures, especially during warmer months. Every month from May to October showed slightly warmer minimum temperatures.

-- Wetter: Total precipitation, the combination of rain and melted snow, is up by about 1.4 inches per year. That’s about a 4% increase. Every month except September and November had more precipitation.

--Snowier. Syracuse is getting an average of 4 more inches of snow per year, bringing us to 127.8 inches. That’s about a 3% bump. November, February and March posted the biggest increases.

The new normals replace the 1981-2010 period, which had been in use over the past decade. Essentially, NOAA swaps one decade for another: In this case, 2011-2020 replaces 1981-1990.

“Normals are 30-year averages of key climate observations made at weather stations and corrected for bad or missing values and station changes over time,” NOAA said. “From the daily weather report to seasonal forecasts, the normals are the basis for judging how temperature, rainfall, and other climate conditions compare to what’s normal for a given location in today’s climate.”

By using 30 years of data, NOAA can smooth out the spikes caused by particularly wet or hot years and give a truer picture of long-term trends.

The new normals are partly the effect of climate change, NOAA said, although regional differences and random chance also play a role. The longer-term trends, show in the map below, give a clearer picture of how the U.S. has been gradually warming, especially since the 1970s.

Average temperatures have been climbing for decades across the U.S., as shown in this map comparing annual average temperatures compared to the 20th Century average.


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