Mar 9, 2023 - News

Columbus experiencing one of warmest winters on record

Average winter temperatures in Columbus
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Our winter season has achieved a dubious distinction — one of the warmest on record.

Driving the news: The average temperature recorded in Columbus between December 2022 and February was 37.6°.

  • That's the fifth-highest average in 145 years of local data, according to analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbers from Climate Central, a nonpartisan research and communications group.

👀 Eye-popping stat: The average is a whopping 12.4° warmer than the average temperature recorded from December 1969 through February 1970.

Why it matters: Warm winters can exacerbate drought, as there's less snowmelt in the spring, and wreak havoc on crops and gardens.

State of play: Seasonal snowfall is declining here and elsewhere, though heavy snowstorms still happen when temperatures get cold enough.

  • Precipitation extremes are happening more frequently and getting more intense which can lead to winters with feast-or-famine snowfall.

Zoom in: Columbus had the latter this February, when no measurable snowfall was recorded the entire month — the first time that's ever happened.

The big picture: Columbus is far from the only city experiencing this change, as winter is the fastest-warming season for much of the continental U.S.

  • About 80% of the country now has at least seven more winter days with above-normal temperatures when compared to 1970, per Climate Central.

Threat level: Not only are winters warming overall, but cold snaps are becoming less severe and shorter in duration, research shows.

  • That's partly because the Arctic is warming at three to four times the rate of the rest of the world.
  • In other words, our global refrigerator is warming up, making it harder to get record-breaking cold for days on end.

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