Weather extremes: N.C. goes more hot than cold


(WGHP File Photo)

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(WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL) — Last summer’s heat wave may be tough to remember when Northwest North Carolina just weathered winter snow. But climate watchers, at least, are still talking about June 30, 2012.

On that date, four counties in the region broke their records for highest maximum temperature for June: Stokes at 101 degrees, Surry at 103, Watauga at a relatively cool 91 and Wilkes at 102.

The records were highlighted in a report last week from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental advocacy group that claims 1.3 million members.

Across the United States, 3,527 monthly temperature, rainfall and snowfall records were broken in 2012, the group said. In North Carolina, 57 monthly records were broken, none in Forsyth County.

The group says extreme weather is fueled by climate change – and advocates limiting carbon pollution, among other steps, to reduce the damaging effects of that change.

“We need to be prepared. As the experience of Hurricane Sandy starkly reminds us, U.S. communities – coastal communities in particular – are vulnerable to the damaging effects of climate change,” the group said.

Extreme events identified in North Carolina included:

-Record-breaking heat in 24 counties with a total of 40 new heat records

-Record-breaking rainfall in 11 counties with a total of 13 new rainfall records

-Record-breaking snow in four counties with a total of four new snow records

“Over time, you’re going to see extreme events,” said Deke Arndt, the chief of the climate-monitoring branch of the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville. The center, which maintains the world’s largest climate-data archive, is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The reason I think it’s significant is in the context of recent decades, we’re seeing more records threatened on the high end than on the cold end,” Arndt said.

Northwest North Carolina did set some records aside from high temperatures.

Yadkin County broke a record for most rainfall on a single day in May: 3.41 inches on May 15, beating the previous record of 3.26 inches set on May 30, 1940.

Surry got rain the same day and beat a record dating back to May 23, 1913.

And there was even one snowfall record: Watauga set a monthly record with 5.5 inches of snow on Oct. 30.

Arndt said that extreme weather is unpredictable.

“That’s stressful on people, on energy systems, on agricultural systems and horticultural systems,” he said.

Overall, weather watchers said they were not surprised by the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“It’s consistent with what we know,” Arndt said. “What we know is the globe is getting warmer. And the U.S. is getting warmer.”


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