Last week the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released temperature data showing that, in the contiguous United States, March 2012 was warmer than any other March on record. In fact, last month broke 15,272 high-temperature records and averaged fully 8.6º F warmer than the 20th-century average for March in the United States. The data also show that the year’s full first quarter—January, February, and March—was also the warmest ever recorded.
This year’s oddball winter has left many Americans wondering to what extent the anomalous heat, premature blooms, and early onslaught of allergy-provoking pollen across much of the United States can be attributed to human-caused climate change.
No individual weather pattern—not even one lasting three-months—can be definitively attributed to human-induced climate change, or any other single cause. But scientists have known for some time that the likelihood of unusually warm seasons is increasing as a result of emissions of heat-trapping gases generated by human activities.
According to a study published in the journal Climatic Change Letters, high summer-season temperatures that used to occur in the United States only 5% of the time (i.e. one year in 20) are now occurring at least 30% of the time throughout the lower 48 states.
Sooner or later, this science is going to sink in. I hope it’s sooner.