Setting Sobering Records
The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), just released a report detailing the United States' climate and weather patterns for the first half of 2017.
The report indicates that June 2017 was third warmest June on record, behind only 2016 and 2015. It also states that the average temperature for the year-to-date in the contiguous U.S. was 10.5 degrees Celsius (50.9 degrees Fahrenheit), roughly 1.8 degrees Celsius (3.4 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. This makes the first half of 2017 the second warmest on record, behind only 2012.
2017 is still unfolding, so it still may be the warmest year on record. If it isn't, all indications point to it being in the top three.
New NOAA data show this June was the third warmest June on record, trailing only 2016 and 2015 pic.twitter.com/7D1MQ7n0S0
— Brian L Kahn (@blkahn) July 18, 2017
As for precipitation, the total for 2017 in the contiguous U.S. has been 2.55 inches above average. That means the first six months of 2017 were the wettest since 1998 and the sixth wettest on record.
In terms of disasters, 2017 is even more notable. Between January and June, the U.S. experienced nine separate billion-dollar climate and weather disasters. These include six severe storms, a freeze, and two floods, which caused 57 deaths in total. Only 2011 and 2016 had more billion-dollar weather and climate disasters by this point in the year, with ten events each.
Climate in Context
Higher levels of precipitation in many places must be seen in the context of drought in others — both extremes are part of the massive chain reaction caused by upheaval in the climate. While there were floods and major storm fronts with high levels of precipitation along the Gulf Coast, for example, some of these areas had previously been experiencing drought conditions.
These significant fluctuations will cause unpredictable and destructive weather patterns, and experts like James Hansen, former NASA climate research head, see rising sea levels as a looming threat that could render much of the world ungovernable.
The American South is likely to be hit particularly hard by climate change in the coming years, and in places like Louisiana, the coastline is already rapidly disappearing, forcing entire towns to relocate.
We'll have to wait to see what the second half of 2017 holds, but the awful records being set do little to ease worries about the climate.