New temperature and precipitation normal numbers released by NOAA


(ASHEVILLE, NC) — The start of 2021 marks the start of a new set of normals for temperatures and precipitation for those who keep and study climate records. The new data set was just released on May 4 by the National Centers for Environmental Information in Asheville, NC. These are the numbers the StormTracker 13 meteorologists refer to when they mention what today’s temperature is “versus normal.”

The normal data sets use a rolling 30 year average and now meteorologists and climatologists will use the time from 1991-2020 and that time frame is used to make a more handy comparison of day to day weather within recent history, compared to longer range climate time frames.

Average annual temperature change in degrees Fahrenheit for the contiguous U.S. from the 1981–2010 U.S. Climate Normals to the newest data in the 1991–2020 Normals, released by NOAA, May 2021. Averages indicate a warming pattern occurred in all but portions of the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains. Courtesy of CISESS.
Annual U.S. precipitation changes by percentage from the 1981–2010 U.S. Climate Normals to the newest data in the 1991–2020 Normals, released by NOAA, May 2021. Decreases indicate a drier Southwest, and increases indicate wetter sections of the Northern Plains, Great Lakes region, and Southeast. Courtesy of CISESS.

The overall notion from the new set of normals is that the continental U.S. is generally warmer than normal and also wetter than normal except the southwestern part of the nation where things are drier.

It should be noted that not every month sees big changes while other months do see significant changes. For a more detailed look at how each month has changed recently, check the NCEI release of information here.

The database of normals is online and open to anyone for their use. Just click here to access the data. Here are just two examples of looking up data for Huntington or Charleston in graphic form for the month of May below. Tabular data can also be obtained for spreadsheet use or other applications for free.

Huntington normals from NCEI Website with May highlighted
Charleston normals from NCEI Website with May highlighted

Expect many more news stories revolving around the release of these new numbers as they are applied to the impacts on society and how we move forward with everything from how and where we live or build or grow food to other impacts on the environment, people and the plant and animal life around us.

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