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That Just Ain’t Normal

When you looked in the paper this morning for the weather at your favorite fishing hole, you probably noted whether or not the temperature and/or precipitation is above or below normal. What the heck is “Normal” anyway? Every ten years, NOAA computes averages from thousands of weather stations around the country for the last three decades. Those numbers become the moving “average” numbers that the Weather Services uses to compare today’s number to.

Since 2000 we have used the 1971-2000 “Average”. This month, NOAA released the new 1981-2010 computations that weather watchers will use for the next decade. How do those numbers compare to the 1971-2000 averages? Amazingly enough they show that the country has mostly gotten warmer. NOAA is careful to note that these numbers are not used as an indicator of overall climate change, but curiously they do seem to fall in line with climate predictions.

In Montana, our Normal Maximums are an average of 0.5 to 0.7 degrees (F) higher than they were during the past 1971-2000 period. Our Normal Minimums fall in an average range from 0.3 to 0.5 degrees warmer. Some areas in Montana had January minimums as much as 4 degrees (F) higher than the last thirty-year average.

The upshot of course is that as the climate warms, so does Normal.  This allows your local, befuddled climate-change denier to once again equate weather with climate and claim that temperatures are just about “Normal” so it’s obvious that there’s no such thing as global warming.


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