America's new normal: A degree hotter than two decades ago

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FILE - In this Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011 file photo, the remains of a carp are seen on the dry lake bed of O.C. Fisher Lake in San Angelo, Texas. According to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, the new United States normal is not just hotter, but wetter in the eastern and central parts of the nation and considerably drier in the West than just a decade earlier. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

America’s new normal temperature is a degree hotter than it was just two decades ago.

Scientists have long talked about climate change — hotter temperatures, changes in rain and snowfall and more extreme weather — being the “new normal.” Data released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration put hard figures on the cliche.

The new United States normal is not just hotter, but wetter in the eastern and central parts of the nation and considerably drier in the West than just a decade earlier.

Meteorologists calculate climate normals based on 30 years of data to limit the random swings of daily weather. It’s a standard set by the World Meteorological Organization. Every 10 years, NOAA updates normal for the country as a whole, states and cities — by year, month and season.

For the entire nation, the yearly normal temperature is now 53.3 degrees (11.8 degrees Celsius) based on weather station data from 1991 to 2020, nearly half a degree warmer than a decade ago. Twenty years ago, normal was 52.3 degrees (11.3 degrees Celsius) based on data from 1971 to 2000. The average U.S. temperature for the 20th century was 52 degrees (11.1 degrees Celsius).

The new normal annual U.S. temperature is 1.7 degrees (0.9 Celsius) hotter than the first normal calculated for 1901 to 1930.

“Almost every place in the U.S. has warmed from the 1981 to 2010 normal to the 1991 to 2020 normal,” said Michael Palecki, NOAA’s normals project manager.

Fargo, North Dakota, where the new normal is a tenth of a degree cooler than the old one, is an exception, but more than 90% of the U.S. has warmer normal temperatures now than 10 years ago, Palecki said.