Mar 14, 2023 - News

Des Moines' winters are getting warmer

Average winter temperatures in Des Moines
Data: Climate Central; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axio

Our winter seasons are part of an alarming warming trend.

Driving the news: The average temperature recorded in Des Moines between December 2022 and February was 27°.

  • While not the hottest on record, average winter temperatures have trended upwards since 1970.
  • That's according to a new analysis of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration numbers from Climate Central, a nonpartisan research and communications group.

Why it matters: Warm winters can exacerbate drought and other ecological problems, Axios' Andrew Freedman reports.

The big picture: Winter is the fastest-warming season for much of the continental U.S., including Iowa.

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

State of play: Iowa's drought conditions have improved in recent weeks thanks in part to unusual February rains that dumped more than a month's worth of precipitation in one day in some places.

Yes, but: Partially frozen ground means that not as much of that water could be absorbed into the soil.

  • Much of the state remains abnormally dry or in drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

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.

The bottom line: Over the coming years, most of us can expect to feel climate change's effects more acutely during the winter months.

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