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NOAA releases new climate normals Tuesday

Published: May. 4, 2021 at 1:51 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Every 10 years, NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – releases a new set of climate “normals” for locations all across the United States. When you hear your local meteorologists on air or online mention how our daily temperatures are cooler or warmer than average, these are the averages we’re talking about.

Climate normals are calculated across a 30-year period, collecting temperature and precipitation data from nearly 15,000 weather stations for daily, monthly, seasonal, and annual averages. 30 is the “magic number” in statistics; generally, a sample size of at least 30 is recommended for a reliable estimate for a mean or average.

As a member of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United States is required to provide decadal updates to the country’s climate normals. Normals give us a better idea of how climate is changing our day-to-day weather, and can be used for economic decisions regarding agriculture and energy.

On an individual level, if you’re looking to visit a certain destination later this year, you can look up the climate normal data to give you an idea of the average highs, lows, and precipitation during that timeframe.

Changes to Climate Normals

Changes to climate normals can be subtle when compared to the previous set of data. This is because two-thirds of the data overlaps. Our previous climate normals were calculated between 1981 and 2010; our latest numbers were calculated from data between 1991 and 2020. The period of 1991 to 2010 is included in both climate sets.

Below is a look at how our monthly high and low temperatures from the previous climate period compare to the current one. It may be subtle, but each month experienced an increase in both the average high and low temperatures.

Omaha Eppley Airfield - Monthly high climate normals
Omaha Eppley Airfield - Monthly high climate normals(wowt)
Omaha Eppley Airfield - Monthly low climate normals
Omaha Eppley Airfield - Monthly low climate normals(wowt)

NATIONALLY -- As seen from the NOAA maps below, a vast majority of the Lower-48 trended warmer (annually) with the latest climate update, in comparison to the 1981-2010 climate normals.

A vast majority of the Lower 48 trended warmer with the latest climate normal update
A vast majority of the Lower 48 trended warmer with the latest climate normal update(NOAA)

The annual precipitation change is less uniform. California and the desert Southwest trended much drier with the latest update, likely contributing to the growing wildfire concerns we’ve seen in the past several years.

Most notably, the Western Region of the United States has trended drier with the latest climate...
Most notably, the Western Region of the United States has trended drier with the latest climate update(NOAA)

Locally, Omaha’s annual precipitation went up by just a little over an inch, with our annual snowfall increasing ever so slightly from 26.4 inches to 27.1 inches.

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