Nathan Willcox,
Environment America

New Report: Temperatures Up in U.S. Cities Since 2000

For Immediate Release

Washington, DC — As the presidential candidates prepare to discuss some of the most important issues facing our country at their final debate tonight, Environment America released a new report documenting that the average annual temperature was above the historical average in many U.S. cities in 2007 and from 2000-2007. In Washington, D.C., the average temperature was 1.7°F above the historical average in 2007.

The year 2007 tied for the second warmest year on record globally and was the 10th warmest year on record in the United States. These record temperatures are part of a trend toward rising temperatures resulting from global warming.

“Throw out the record books because global warming is raising temperatures in all our backyards,” said Environment America Federal Global Warming Program Director Emily Figdor. “While one or two degrees may not seem like much, just as any parent with a sick child knows, even a small rise in temperature can have a big effect,” she continued.

According to NASA, seven of the eight warmest years on record globally have occurred since 2001. These above-average temperatures led Environment America to more closely examine recent temperature trends at the local level.

“Feeling the Heat: Global Warming and Rising Temperatures in the United States” compares government temperature data for the years 2000-2007 with the historical average, or “normal,” temperature for the preceding 30 years, 1971-2000. Our data were collected at the 255 weather stations with the highest quality data in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Key findings for the report include:

  • In 2007, the average temperature was 1.7°F above normal in Washington, DC. Between 2000 and 2007, the average temperature was 0.9°F above the historical average in Washington, D.C.
  • Nationally, the annual average temperature from 2000-2007 was at least 0.5°F above normal at nearly 90 percent (89 percent) of the weather stations. Average temperatures deviated most from the historical average in Alaska, the Mountain West, Upper Midwest, Gulf South, and the Plains.
  • Over the course of 2007, Washington, D.C., experienced 44 days where the temperature hit at least 90°F, which is eight days more than the historical average. Nationally, nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of the weather stations recorded more days in 2007 with peak temperatures of at least 90°F compared with the historical average. Extreme heat can have serious implications for human health, causing heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and even death.
  • The report also includes local data on trends since 2000 in the average minimum temperature—the lowest temperature recorded on a given day, usually at night—and maximum temperature—the highest temperatures recorded on a given day.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the prestigious United Nations body that won a Nobel Prize last year for its work—has concluded the evidence of global warming is “unequivocal” and that human activities are responsible for most of the increase in global average temperatures. Burning fossil fuels, including oil, coal, and natural gas, to power cars, homes, and industry produces most U.S. global warming emissions.

A recent Bush administration report said “it is very likely” that more people will die in the United States during extremely hot periods in the future. In addition, the report identified degraded air quality, wildfires, heat waves, drought, more powerful tropical storms, extreme rainfall with flooding, and sea level rise as particular risks for the South Atlantic region, which includes Washington, D.C.

Energy issues have featured prominently in both presidential and vice-presidential debates this election season.

“We’re at a crossroads on energy, and it’s up to the next President to choose a new path that curbs global warming and helps recharge our struggling economy,” said Figdor. “It’s clear that our energy crisis isn’t just hurting us at the pump, but it’s also causing Americans to feel the heat. The good news is that repowering America with wind and solar power will curb global warming, and clean, renewable energy is one of the few bright spots in our troubled economy,” said Figdor.

According to the latest climate science, the United States and the world must break its dependence on fossil fuels and transition rapidly to 100 percent clean, renewable energy if we hope to avoid the most catastrophic effects of global warming.

Specifically, the United States must reduce its global warming emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 and by 80 percent by 2050 and make energy efficiency improvements and the accelerated development of renewable energy the centerpiece of our environmental and economic development policies.

Recently, more than 150 members of Congress endorsed strong principles for action on energy and global warming. Environment America urged that those principles be the blueprint for action for the next President and Congress.