Environment

Where climate change is wreaking havoc: the 10 hottest counties in North Carolina

This post has been corrected to read that Elias Carr was governor of North Carolina in 1895, not William Umstead, who was born that year.

Three degrees might not seem like much, but when the temperature departs that far from the yearly average, something is amiss. That something — climate change — contributed to dramatically warmer temperatures in eight North Carolina counties  last year, with averages  at least 3 degrees above than those recorded from 1901-2000.

The data comes from NOAA’s annual report, released this week.

Those extremes, plus the fact that temperatures in every county were above normal contributed to the hottest year recorded in North Carolina since the state started keeping records: 1895, when Elias Carr was governor of North Carolina and Grover Cleveland was in his second term as president.

The average temperature in North Carolina last year was 61.1 degrees, 2.6 degrees warmer than the 20th century average. The state tied its own record for warmth, last set in 1990.

10 hottest counties, 2017, and departures from 20th-century average,
in degrees Fahrenheit

1. Richmond (+3.44)
2. Scotland (+3.32)
3. Warren (+3.2)
4. Moore (+3.07)
5. Franklin (+3.06)
6. Hoke (+3.03)
7. Johnston (+3.01)
8. Anson (+3)
9. Carteret (+2.98)
10. Washington (+2.91)

Many of these same counties also experienced extremely dry weather.  Richmond County, for example, was down nearly 8 inches of rain for the year, and Moore reported a deficit of nearly 10 inches.

10 driest counties, 2017, and departures from 20th-century average, in inches

1. Lee (-12.68)
2. Moore (-9.92)
3. Chatham (-9.66)
4. Harnett (-8.9)
5. Cleveland (-8.35)
6. Alamance (-7.96)
7. Richmond (-7.94)
8. Montgomery (-7.68)
9. Stanley (-6.68)
10. Randolph (-6.14)
Scotland (-6.10)

Those dry conditions have spread across the state into 2018, according to the NC Drought Monitor. Eighty-five of 100 counties are considered abnormally dry or in a moderate drought.

Meanwhile, in 2017, some mountain counties recorded excessively wet conditions. Watauga County received 9.4 inches more precipitation than average. Ashe County reported 7 inches above normal.

The lower 48 states reported the third-warmest year on record, just behind 2012 and 2016. The five warmest years on record for the contiguous US have all occurred since 2006, NOAA said.

For data geeks, the NOAA report is full of interesting, if troubling tidbits: California had the most destructive wildfire season on record. Outside the Continental US, in Hawai’i, drought conditions covered 71 percent of the state by the end of summer — yes, in a state that’s surrounded by water. Alaska’s average temperature was nearly 3 1/2 degrees above average.

You can drill down into the NOAA website for state-by-state, month-by-month and global analysis and data.

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