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Examining how much the climate has warmed since the first Earth Day 50 years ago

Average annual temperatures have been on the rise locally and nationally since April 22, 1970

Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Roanoke
Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Roanoke (Climate Central)

ROANOKE, Va. – It’s a milestone for Earth Day as this year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day in 1970 led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of environmentally-friendly laws like the Clean Air Act. One billion people and more than 190 countries take part in raising awareness for the environment each year on Earth Day.

Despite the raised awareness to environmental issues, national and local temperatures continue to rise in a globalized and industrialized world.

Climate Central has examined the change in average annual temperatures across 242 cities in the United States. They found that 98% of them had seen an increase in temperatures since the first Earth Day in 1970. The national average annual temperature has risen 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit in that time.

Change in average annual temperature since 1970 nationwide
Change in average annual temperature since 1970 nationwide (Climate Central)

The warming has been seen in our local communities, too. There have been some colder years mixed in, but overall, the average annual temperature in Roanoke has increased by three degrees since the first Earth Day.

Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Roanoke
Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Roanoke (Climate Central)

In Lynchburg, the change has not been as pronounced as the average annual temperature has risen less than one degree.

Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Lynchburg
Change in average annual temperature since 1970 in Lynchburg (Climate Central)

The numbers indicate that while the environmental consciousness has been elevated since Earth Day was established, we still have a long way to go to stabilize our climate in southwest Virginia and across the country.


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