Austin’s coldest time of year warming with climate change

Weather Blog

In an average winter, the coldest temps of the year are generally recorded earliest in the west (December) and latest in the east (January/early February). Lying in between is Central Texas, averaging the coldest temps of the year in the first week of January.

Average timeline of coldest days of winter. SOURCE: NCEI Climate Normals

New Analysis

New analysis done by Climate Central shows Texas, in addition to parts of the Northeast and Southeast, is warming at a faster rate than the rest of the U.S.

Coldest time of year (January 1st – 5th) using minimum temperatures 1981 – 2010 NCEI climate normals.
SOURCE: RCC-ACIS.org

With an average minimum temperature near 45° in 1970, new data shows 2020’s minimum temperature near 53°— an +8.2° warm-up in the last 50 years. This warming trend is a result of climate change, which an overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe to be accelerating due to human activities.

The good vs. the bad

A warmer winter comes with some benefits including lower heating bills, less ice-related travel issues and more comfortable outdoor weather. However, the bad far outweighs the good with a warmer climate resulting in winter precipitation falling as rain rather than snow, with further implications to snowpack, drought and agriculture. Not to leave out that warmer winter temperatures mean longer mosquito and tick seasons!

Warmer winters have particularly hard-hitting impacts on states who rely heavily on winter recreation. Winter sports and tourism not only bring in millions of dollars to the economy, it also employees thousands of job-seekers.

  • IN-DEPTH: An analysis of the 2015-2016 winter season showed winter sports and recreation accounted for ~$20.3 billion in the U.S. economy.

Shrinking snowpack can also lead to trickle-down effects including less crop yields and limited water supplies.

  • IN-DEPTH: Apples, peaches, cherries and blueberries were estimated to be worth over $48 billion in the 2019 U.S. economy.

For more information, visit ClimateCentral.org.

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