Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Hottest year ever...again

Another year, another chance to write about how the first six months of this new year was the hottest ever. This repetition is very sadly true for the United States, and especially for our region. The title of "warmest year on record" through the month of June was given to a whopping 116 long-term climate and weather stations across the country. Dozens more recorded some of their warmest years ever, with the few omissions mostly coming from geographically unique or distant areas like the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, the deserts of the southwest, and Hawaii.

Bridgeport and Hartford recorded their hottest six months to start a year ever, coming in with an incredibly astonishing +4.7 and +4.6 degrees Fahrenheit departure from average, respectively. These "Haywood plots" courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Climatic Data Center really hammer home the message of how far out of the ballpark 2012 has been.

The year has been different from any we have ever seen before. Bridgeport's gap between even the next closest year is ridiculous, and almost seems flawed. You will note that both locations saw below average temperatures in January and February, with the caveat that less data points in those months makes the data more volatile. This year, while admittedly a meaningless sample in the grand scheme, fits in line with the general disastrous theme of global climate change - extremes. We are going to be seeing colder winters and hotter summers, with less of the "seasons" in between (it almost does not feel like a four seasonal shift at some points now already). When I was a child, I even recall a more steady flow between winter and spring than we have now, with years like this one becoming more frequent. I have lived in Stratford my entire life and seen the changes taking place all around me.

The dramatic change from snow and frigid air to 70 degrees this March was lovely at the time, but could spell doom for much of the life in our part of the country. Vernal pools, for example, are completely novel to the northeast. Our region has experienced some of the most change in terms of temperature, far beyond our Connecticut stations. Stations in Boston and Worcester Massachusetts have seen their hottest year so far, too. So have New York City and the two airport stations, plus Albany, Binghamton, and Syracuse, as well as Providence, Rhode Island.

Vernal pools are a critical component for countless species, many that are already imperiled and of high conservation concern. If we have many more years like this one the species that inhabit these pools could be in dire straits. This leads back to the discussion on apparent-but-not-actual drought I mentioned in this post, and I will discuss this more in another post later this week.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

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