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Summer temperatures are on the climb

Average summer temperatures in Madison, Wisconsin have warmed by 2.1 degrees since 1970.
Average summer temperatures in Madison, Wisconsin have warmed by 2.1 degrees since 1970.(WMTV)
Published: Jul. 29, 2020 at 5:51 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - This summer is one of the warmer ones we have had in several years across southern Wisconsin, especially July. More and more days are seeing above normal afternoon highs along with humidity levels that are more typical of the south. More moisture is leading to more storms and heavier downpours with 2020 on pace to be one of the wettest on record again. A trend that may become the new normal for southern Wisconsin summers. Since 1970, average summer temperatures in Madison have climbed by 2.1 degrees.

Our partners at Climate Central looked at average summer temperatures, 94% (228) of the 242 cities analyzed recorded an increase, including 101 (42%) cities that warmed by more than 2℉ since 1970. This warming trend is also reflected in the change in individual summer days above normal, with 93% (226) of cities recording an increase since 1970 and 74% (179) of cities with an increase of a week or more. The top 30 stations with the greatest increases, all recording more than a month of additional days above normal, were concentrated in the southern United States一particularly in the Southeast and Texas.

While it’s usually summer high temperatures and record-breaking heat that get the most attention, summer nights are warming faster than summer days. Analyzing low temperatures, 53% (128 of 242) recorded a rise of more than 2℉, on average, since 1970. Madison saw a dramatic increase in average overnight temperatures with a 5.1 degree increase. Overnight low temperatures can offer a vital reprieve during extreme heat一allowing the body to recover and the environment to cool down. This cooling effect is particularly necessary in urban environments, which hold more heat and have fewer trees to provide shading and evapotranspiration. However, while heat exposure may be greater in urban areas, many social factors like age, income, health status and social isolation may make rural populations more vulnerable一particularly in regions that are relatively unaccustomed to extreme heat and have less access to air conditioning.

Overnight lows in Madison, Wisconsin have warmed by an average of 5.1 degrees during the summer since 1970
Overnight lows in Madison, Wisconsin have warmed by an average of 5.1 degrees during the summer since 1970(WMTV)

Summer heat can also contribute to poor air quality, often accompanied by air stagnation which traps harmful pollutants. While we learned about temporary reductions in air pollution due to COVID-19, these improvements will not last as businesses reopen and the heat kicks in. Longer-term solutions are necessary to provide lasting benefits which can help us to slow climate change as well as adapt to the impacts. Adding green spaces to act as cooling centers and improving the energy efficiency of buildings are just some of the climate solutions at our fingertips.

METHODOLOGY

Analyses used 1970-2019 data from the Applied Climate Information System. Displayed trend lines are based on a mathematical linear regression. The number of spring days above normal was calculated using the 1981-2010 NOAA/NCEI normals. Climate Central’s local analyses include 244 stations. However, for data summaries based on linear trends, only 242 stations are included due to large data gaps in St. Johnsbury, Vt. and Wheeling, W. Va.

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