Winters in the United States Are Getting Colder

The Huffington Post is unhappy about how CNN's Crossfire covered the latest National Climate Assessment (NCA) during a debate between Bill Nye and S.E. Cupp.  Of course, the Post wanted more hysteria, but at least they acknowledged that "'Crossfire' had everything you don't want in a climate change segment. The use of Bill Nye, who has no background in climate science, as the 'climate change is real' participant? Check."

But the major concern from these debates is that we end up with over-generalized headlines from the NCA, such as the one shown in the CNN screen-capture below that the Post reproduced.

"New Climate Change Warning: 'Shorter & Warmer' Winters"?  Well, this certainly isn't a "new" climate change warning by any stretch.

The real problem with this headline is that winters in the United States have been getting colder for the last 15-20 years, not warmer.  Have a look at the figure below, which shows running five-year winter temperature averages since 1985 in the USA as a whole, and in each of the major climate divisions.

So if climate change is supposed to lead to warmer winters, why are winters in the USA getting colder?  Overall, there has been absolutely no significant trend in average wintertime temperatures since 1980.

Throughout most of the nation, current five-year winter temperatures are already back down to their mid-1980s levels.  The cooling isn't trivial, either.  The average wintertime temperature between 1996-2000 was 35.0°F.  From 2010-2014, it was only 32.9°F.

If this post-2000 rate of decline continues, the five-year average wintertime temperature in the contiguous United States will return to its 20th-century average by 2017 or 2018.  Yes, only a few years away from a return to "normal" if trends continue.

Perhaps some climate patience, rather than hysteria, is in order?