Over the past 20 years, Americans have been twice as likely to sweat through record-breaking heat rather than shiver through record-setting cold, a new Associated Press data analysis shows.
The AP looked at 424 weather stations throughout the US lower 48 states that had consistent temperature records since 1920 and counted how many times daily hot temperature records were tied or broken and how many daily cold records were set. In a stable climate, the numbers should be roughly equal.
Since 1999, the ratio has been two warm records set or broken for every cold one. In 16 of the last 20 years, there have been more daily high temperature records than low.
The AP shared the data analysis with several climate and data scientists, who all said the conclusion was correct, consistent with scientific peer-reviewed literature and showed a clear sign of human-caused climate change. They pointed out that trends over decades are more robust than over single years.
The analysis stopped with data through 2018. However, the first two months of 2019 are showing twice as many cold records than hot ones. That’s temporary and trends are over years and decades, not months, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt.
“We are in a period of sustained and significant warming and over the long run will continue to explore and break the warm end of the spectrum much more than the cold end,” Arndt said.