• Ian Sutton

Climate Change in Central Virginia

Updated: Mar 21

Virginia, United States

News about climate change tends to be about extreme events such as massive wildfires, hurricane frequency and intensity, and loss of coral reefs. But climate change is also affecting life in areas that are no subject to these extremes.

I live in central Virginia, U.S.A. The climate here is quite mild, and extreme events such as hurricanes or fires are rare. Nevertheless, even here we are feeling the effects of climate change. During the course of 2020 we published the following posts to do with how the climate in this area is changing. They included Record Temperatures (2020-12-02) and Gradual Warming in Virginia (2020-12-13).

The information in both of these posts is taken from the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper. At the beginning of the year 2021, John Boyer, the newspaper’s meteorologist wrote a summary for the region’s weather in 2020. Here are some of the comments that he made (all temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit).

  • 2020’s weather across Virginia was a story of persistent — at times relentless — trends pushing us toward the top of the records for warmth and rainfall.

  • 78.7 degrees, Virginia’s average temperature during July 2020. That tied July 2012 as the state’s record-hottest month of the past 126 years.

  • 20 degrees, Richmond’s lowest temperature throughout the entire year. Every year on record had at least one colder night in the 10s or lower except 1911, which also settled at 20. This is now the longest Richmond has gone without a low below 20 degrees: 700 days as of Jan. 2.

  • Zero days with 1 inch of snow depth measured at daybreak in Richmond. While we did see a couple of minor snowfalls on Feb. 20 and Dec. 7, they didn’t add up to much or stick around for long. No-show winters have happened before, but 2020 was the first year of the 21st century when Richmond didn’t wake up to a snowy-white ground on at least one morning.

What comes out of Boyer’s report is that the climate in central Virginia is changing slowly but inexorably. Not every month is a record, but the trend toward a wetter, warmer future is clear.

The report concludes, however, with some good news,

  • Zero days with unhealthy air quality in Richmond.

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