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NASA image: hotter lows and hotter highs in the US

New images show just how much US temperatures in July and January have changed recently as the nation feels the impact of global climate change. Dubbed the ‘new normals’ of US climate, the maps focus on July maximums – typically the hottest month of the year – and January minimums – typically the coldest month. While both July highs and January lows warmed recently, January lows saw the biggest jump.

By contrasting temperatures from 1971-2000 and 1981-2010, the maps show significant rises in temperatures in many parts of the country. While July maximums saw some cooling in the Midwest (up to 1.5 degree Fahrenheit), the temperatures rose elsewhere, including up to 3 degrees Fahrenheit in parts of the West and Pacific Northwest.

January minimums rose even more starkly. Except for Florida and parts of the Southeast, January minimums rose everywhere else, especially in the Midwest and Rocky Mountains, where between 1971-2000 and 1981-2010 minimums jumped up to 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

All fifty states saw average temperatures rise between 1971-2000 and 1981-2010.

According to decades of research from thousands of scientists, the world is warming because of emissions of greenhouse gases from human actions, such as burning fossil fuels and destroying forests.

During the 20th Century, the global average temperature rose about 1.33 degrees Fahrenheit (0.74 degrees Celsius). Expected impacts from climate change include more frequent and worsening extreme weather events, greater precipitation events (both rain and snow), worsening droughts for parts of the world, global sea level rise due to polar melting, large-scale species extinctions, ocean acidification, a rise in massive fires, changes in the range of diseases, and many others. Water supplies, food production, societal health, the global economy, and international stability are all expected to be threatened by climate change.

Future warming depends on how rapidly global society brings down current greenhouse gas emissions.

January minimum temperature comparison from two 30 year measurements: 1971-2000 and 1981-2010. Map courtesy of NASA. Click to enlarge.

July maximum temperature comparison from two 30 year measurements: 1971-2000 and 1981-2010. Map courtesy of NASA. Click to enlarge.

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