Benson Temperatures Reflect A Warming Climate

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by Reed Anfinson
Publisher, Swift County Monitor-News


2016 made it three consecutive years that the Earth has broken its all-time heat record based on data that goes back to the 1880s. It also means that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have occurred from 2000 to 2016.

More than 95 percent of the world’s climate scientists agree that there is one primary cause for the warming planet – heat trapping greenhouse gases that we pour into the atmosphere by burning of fossil fuels like oil and coal.

Climate scientists also say that as the Earth warms the atmosphere can hold more water vapor. That is going to mean more flooding downpours. The “Northeast, Midwest and Upper Great Plains have seen a 30 percent increase in heavy rainfall events,” Seth Borenstein, science writer for the Associated Press, reports. However, at the same time California and some other western and southwestern states have seen extended droughts.

While reports of a climate that is getting warmer and wetter seem like a distant story that doesn’t have a direct impact on those of us living in western Minnesota, our local weather statistics show that we are directly affected.

If you look at the 12 warmest years on record for Benson based on daily records going back to 1952, you will see that six have been since 2000 and eight since 1998. Of the top six warmest years, five have been since 1999. While 2016 will go down as the warmest on record in the United States, it was the sixth warmest for Benson

Benson’s 12 Warmest Years On Record

Year        High    Low    Mean
1-1987    59.2    38.3    48.7
2-2006    59.0    37.2    48.1
3-2005    57.7    36.7    47.2
4-1999    57.3    36.8    47.0
5-2012    58.7    35.0    46.8
6-2016    56.8    36.6    46.72
7-1990    57.9    35.4    46.66
8-1998    56.8    36.4    46.63
9-1973    56.0    35.9    46.0
10-2015    56.2    35.3    45.9
11-1988    57.1    34.4    45.78
12-2004    56.6    34.9    45.77

Despite the climate warming, we certainly can get bitterly cold days. December 18 the temperature fell to a minus 28 degrees, the coldest day in nearly seven years and a record for the date. The old record was a minus 24 degrees. But the days on which we are seeing warm record temperature marks broken now far outnumber the cold records broken.

Benson saw 15 temperature records broken or tied in 2016, 12 were high temperature records and three were low temperature records.

Get used to more warm days than cold days, Borenstein writes. “The United States is already setting twice as many daily heat records as cold records, but a new study predicts that will get a lot more lopsided as man-made climate change worsens,” he says.

Without global warming, the U.S. would see about an even number of cold temperature and hot temperature records broken.

If the current rate of warming continues we can expect a ratio of 15 to 1 for hot records broken to cold records by 2067.

Other signs of warming can be seen in the record ice-out dates on area lakes. Exceptionally warm early March 2016 temperatures meant record early ice-out dates. Artichoke Lake northwest of Appleton, set a record when the ice went out March 16, two days earlier than the old record of March 18, 2012. Big Stone Lake also set a record with ice going out March 16, again two days ahead of the old record of March 18, 2012.

Lake Traverse set a record when the ice went out March 15, three days ahead of the 2012 March 18 record. Lake Minnewaska tied its record early ice-free date of March 21 set back in 2012.

The three warmest Marches on record have all now taken place since 2000 as well as five of the 10 warmest. The five warmest Novembers have all occurred since 1999. Benson set a record high for the month of February in 2016 when the temperature reached 61 degrees Saturday Feb. 27.

For Minnesota, the autumn season (September through November) was the warmest in state history dating back to 1895, University of Minnesota Climatologist Mark Seeley writes. For the Benson area, it was the fourth warmest fall season falling behind 1963, 2004 and 2005 respectively. On a statewide basis the mean temperature for the three-month period was about 6 degrees above normal.

For the first time since Benson started keeping records in 1952, the area saw four consecutive years where the first frost didn’t come until October - 2013 to 2016.

We’ve also seen some extremely wet weather this year. The Benson area saw its wettest July to October period on record with 19.23 inches of rain. Of course, that was helped by 8.59 inches of rain in July, which was the third wettest on record.

Waseca saw 54.13 inches of precipitation for 2016 setting a precipitation record. It beat the 53.52 inches that fell in St Francis in Anoka County in 1991. Waseca saw 10.16 inches of rain Sept. 21-22. That is a two-day total that wouldn’t be a surprise in June, July, but for late September it was a record.

President-elect Donald Trump has sided with the climate change deniers though the evidence of it is overwhelming. His stand got him votes. He has stacked his cabinet with people who think climate change is a hoax. He promises renewed oil drilling efforts and support for coal mine expansion. He may pull the U.S. back from international climate change accords aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, the Arctic warms at a record pace, sea levels are rising flooding low-lying islands forcing their inhabitants to move, storm sewers in Florida coastal cities are pushing sea water up into residential streets and business districts when the tide comes in, and glaciers are disappearing. The U.S. military sees climate change as a threat to America security as it causes droughts and floods that disrupt food production as well as access to drinking water. Scarcity of water and food is going to destabilize countries.

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