2020 was Vt.’s 2nd-warmest

  • Neil Rachlen, of Enfield, scoops a load of sand into containers in his vehicle at the Enfield, N.H., Public Works Department Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. “It was treacherous driving this morning,” he said. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. valley news photographs — james m. patterson

  • Enfield Public Works Supervisor Scott Johnston refuels his truck after a day of plowing after a storm dropped about four inches of snow in Enfield, N.H., Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. “That last storm was more than we had all of last winter,” he said of the 36 to 42 inches that fell over the town on December 17. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Staff Writer
Published: 1/3/2021 11:06:48 AM
Modified: 1/3/2021 11:06:44 AM

To a year of disturbing events, here’s one more to add: 2020 was the second-warmest year on record. That, at least, is the latest from the Burlington station of the National Weather Service, which reports that five of the past 10 years all now rank in the top 10 in mean average temperature.

The mean average temperature in 2020 was 49.4 degrees, 3.4 degrees above the historical mean average of 46 degrees and only half a degree below the record 49.9 degrees in 2012.

Nor might it be surprising to learn after reports of how local farmers struggled with a pronounced lack of rain this past summer that 2020 was also the second-driest since 2012, according to the NWS, which recorded 31.38 inches of precipitation at its monitoring station at Burlington International Airport, 5.44 inches below normal.

In sum, 2020 was a “warm and dry year relative to normal,” said NWS Burlington.

Moreover, the past 10 years are all ranked with the top 25 warmest years on record, according to Andrea LaRocca, a meteorologist at the NWS in Burlington.

Closer to the Upper Valley, where the NWS has a monitoring station at the Lebanon Municipal Airport, the average mean temperature was 48.3 degrees, which makes it either the third- or fourth-warmest year on record, according to Hunter Tubbs, a meteorologist at the NWS in Gray, Maine, which covers New Hampshire.

Tubbs said that “data gaps” in the record, possibly due to “instrument issues” in the monitoring equipment in Lebanon, make it difficult to rank the years for temperature and precipitation.

But he said 2010, with an average mean temperature of 48.9 degrees, would be the warmest on record if 1998, for which 130 days of data is not available, is excluded.

The second-warmest year measured in Lebanon — again, excluding 1998 because of incomplete data — would be 2012, according to Tubbs.

Precipitation totaled 36.32 inches, or 4.5% less than a mean average of 38.03 inches, he said.

Whatever the specific yearly vicissitudes in temperature and rainfall, the effects of climate change in the Upper Valley are evident and profound, said Erich Osterberg, associate professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth and climatologist who studies how climate change affects local communities.

“We’ve seen a real increase in severe storms, which causes flash flooding, the classic example (Tropical Storm) Irene,” said Osterberg, which he predicted will occur with “more frequency” in the years ahead.

Osterberg said the recent flip from massive snowstorm to rain on Christmas that wiped out the holiday ski season shows how the effects of climate change can have a economic impact on local businesses.

“That’s a huge week for them. That’s how the make their money,” he said.

In Northern New England, warming temperatures will have the greatest effect on the outer edges of the seasons, Osterbeg explained.

“Mid-January to mid-February is not going to change, but the core winter shortens on either side in December and March … that’s a huge part of our local culture.”

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.

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