Do we have a new ‘normal temperature’?

Yes, the entire nation now has a new ‘normal temperature.’

These climatological temperatures, and other weather parameters, are computed by averaging all temperatures over a 30-year period. These averages are called normal temperatures. These averages serve as a reference point and are used to help us interpret average climate conditions at a particular location. A comparison of today’s temperature with the normal temperature helps us determine if today is an atypical weather day.

Private industry also uses these temperatures in planning. For example, energy companies use the normal temperature for long-term planning of energy usage. Agriculture uses this as they monitor a particular growing season.

The National Ocean and Atmosphere Administration’s National Climatic Data Center (or NCDC) calculates the normal weather conditions over a 30-year period for more than 7,500 locations in the United States.

Since this time period is a reference point, we have to define the 30-year period. As of July 1, this averaging period is 1981-2010. Prior to that date, the averaging period was 1971-2000. So, what does this new period tell us?

The normal temperature for the entire US is about 0.5 degrees warmer now than it was during the 1971-2000 time period. The normal low temperature for WI is about 0.8 degrees warmer now than it was in the 1971-2000 period; and Wisconsin’s normal high temperature is about 0.6 degrees warmer. According to Assistant State Climatologist, Dr. E. Hopkins, the new normal high and low temperatures for Madison are 56.6 and 36.7, which are 0.2 and 1.2 degrees higher than the previous 30-year period.

Category: Climate
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