Warmer winter to follow scorcher summer
A thermometer in Columbia in June scorched up the highest official temperature ever recorded in South Carolina — a blazing 113 degrees.
Hottest temperature recorded in South Carolina: 113 in Columbia, on June 29.
Previous hottest: 111 at Blackville, Sept. 4, 1925; at Calhoun Falls, Sept. 8, 1925; at Camden, June 27, 1954.
First recognized temperature record in South Carolina: 1887.
Source: S.C. Department of Natural Resources, state climate office
Might as well get used to it. That record high likely wasn’t an outlier. And the forecast for this winter is warmer and drier than average — just like last winter.
There are two little bits of relief: It will be cooler along the coast, where temperatures will be about normal, said Jake Crouch, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate scientist. And the next two weeks or so will be a little wetter and cooler overall, said Ed O’Lenic, the national Climate Prediction Center operations chief.
The culprit isn’t the usual El Nino/La Nina gang. This time it’s the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, essentially a big splotch of cold water in the north Pacific Ocean that “might just be driving these signals in our climate,” O’Lenic said.
The hobgoblin in all this is climate warming, the stubbornly disputed trend that the preponderance of scientific evidence now demonstrates is happening.
The forecasts follow an S.C. Climate Office release that verified the 113 temperature recorded June 29 at the University of South Carolina. Leonard Vaughan, National Weather Service meteorologist in Columbia, called the heat wave that day a rare event pressure-cooked by sinking air that was unusually dry for June.
But heat has been no stranger to the region. The first six months of the year were the warmest ever recorded for South Carolina, according to NOAA. It was so warm that outdoor sports enthusiasts reported animals and plants doing things earlier in the season than had been seen before.
Two weeks after that “rare” record-breaking day, a 124 heat index tallied July 13 at the Mount Pleasant Regional Airport set an unofficial state record.
A relatively cool November is largely what kept the state from setting an average heat record for the year.
The continental United States as a whole wasn’t so lucky.
“We’re now virtually certain that the year will be the warmest on record for the contiguous United States,” Crouch said. Globally, the year is the eighth warmest recorded, he said.
Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744 or @bopete on Twitter.