State heat record latest sign of climate change
The first six months of the year were the warmest on record for South Carolina, as they were for 27 other states in the East, South and Midwest.
Just a few examples of recent local and national climate extremes:
Mount Pleasant set an unofficial state heat index record of 124 degrees on July 13.
Some 21,000 daily weather records were broken from January through March in the continental United States — record high and low temperatures, rain and snowfall.
The six-month record of average heat for the state included a winter that threatened to be the driest on record.
The Lowcountry has been in some form of drought for at least six of the last nine years, and on the brink of it a seventh year. At least some part of the state has been in drought for nine of the last 11 years.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, S.C. Climate Office, Post and Courier archives
That’s the preliminary report from the S.C. Climate Office, following up a National Climate Data Center report.
The average temperature was 62 degrees, a hair above a record set in 1974 and repeated in 1990, according to the Climate Office. The records have been kept dating to 1895.
Given those two earlier years, the record could be shrugged off as a normal fluctuation. But it’s the latest in what seems like a relentless train wreck climate extremes occurring locally and worldwide.
The preponderance of scientific evidence supports that climate warming is under way.
The heat record “is certainly what we’d expect with anthropogenic (human-induced) climate warming,” said Cary Mock, University of South Carolina climatologist.
And it coincides with what experts have begun to call the worst drought in the United States since the “Dust Bowl” 1930s, he said.
“We’re entering a stage where something is causing these huge droughts,” Mock said.
Longer dry spells appear to be partly driven by an expanding Hadley’s cell, said Phil Dustan, College of Charleston biologist. The cell is an atmospheric circulation that drives the moisture responsible for tropical rainbelts and equatorial deserts.
It’s one of any number of large-scale climate-warming patterns occurring in front of our eyes, he said.
Closer to home, the Lowcountry is seeing sea rise and coral bleaching caused by algae found in warmer water.
“There’s all sort of weird stuff going on,” Dustan said. “Global warming is a steamroller, and we’ve just seen a little bit of it so far. We haven’t seen what’s coming down the pike.”
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or on Twitter @bopete.