When you hear a meteorologist mention Austin’s high average temperature or precipitation next month, the numbers will be different. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is updating what it considers “normal” across the country.
And NOAA says climate change is evident in the new data.
Government statistics for normal weather conditions – including high and low temperatures and precipitation – are generally taken from a 30-year moving average. This information is updated every 10 years.
Over the past decade, much of what we have been told is normal in Austin has been based on weather data from 1981 to 2010. Next month’s update will remove information from the ‘1980s and includes most recent decade.
NOAA has yet to release details. But Victor Murphy, program manager for the National Weather Service’s Southern Region Climate Service, said we can expect warmer average temperatures. In Austin, he said, expect an increase in average annual precipitation, but a decrease in the number of rainy days.
It’s getting hot in here
Murphy did not go into details, pending the final release of NOAA data. But he said we can expect average low and high temperatures to rise by about 1/2 to 1 degree Fahrenheit “in Austin and pretty much statewide in Texas.”
Even more striking was the expected change in average annual rainfall in Austin.
“It looks like it actually grew about 2 inches from about 34.2 inches to 36.2,” Murphy said. “But the number of days with measurable precipitation has actually gone down by about maybe one day less per year.”
This increase in average precipitation, but the decrease in the number of rainy days, shows how Austin has seen more severe storms in recent times, but also more dry days. It’s a trend towards extreme weather conditions like droughts and floods that climatologists have been warning about for years.
“It fits perfectly with what we hear about climate change,” Murphy said.
Is Texas Ready?
Using more recent information will help people better understand what to expect from the weather in the near future. But some may fear that the 30-year moving average leaves too much room for climate history, obscuring the severity of climate change over the past century.
A NOAA article on the update rejects this idea. In it, Rebecca Lindsey argues that comparing 30-year averages can be a powerful way to demonstrate how much of the United States has become hotter since record keeping began.
Murphy said the new information will do more than just put the daily weather in perspective.
“Figures like this are really huge when it comes to construction, engineering and things like that,” he said, suggesting that the new data could help guide efforts to improve control. flooding and the Texas power grid.
“Ten years from now, will we have another half-degree to 1-degree rise in temperatures in the future?” he said. “I think it’s pretty clear… it will be and we will have even more demand for electricity, air conditioning, infrastructure.”
This story was produced as part of the Austin MonitorKUT’s reporting partnership.
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