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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Charlotte just had its first snow-less winter, as average temps rise

Spring has begun in the Charlotte area with blooming phlox and other flowers.
David Boraks
/
WFAE
Spring has begun in the Charlotte area with blooming phlox and other flowers.

Charlotte hit a climate milestone with the start of spring Monday: For the first time, not even a trace of snow fell on the city this winter.

Weather service records going back to 1878 show that Charlotte has never had a winter without even a few snowflakes — until now. There have been years where we got only flurries, mostly recently 2012 and 2005. But Charlotte didn't even see that this year.

"The last time we had a trace or more of snow was May," said Bill Martin, the science and operations officer with the National Weather Service in Greenville, South Carolina.

Climate change has warmed winter temperatures across the country, especially in the East. Charlotte's average winter temperature is up 4.1 degrees since 1970.
Climate Central
Climate change has warmed winter temperatures across the country, especially in the East. Charlotte's average winter temperature is up 4.1 degrees since 1970.

That was last spring. Last winter, Charlotte got 4.3 inches of total snow, which is considered normal for the city. But as the planet warms with climate change, the average winter temperature in Charlotte is 4.1 degrees higher than it was in 1970, according to an analysis of weather service data by Climate Central.

"As winters are getting warmer and warmer, it's just hard for it to be cold enough to snow during the time when precipitation is falling," said Jack Scheff, a climate scientist at UNC Charlotte. "In Charlotte, that trend will continue as long as the planet keeps warming up."

Of course, it did snow in the North Carolina mountains this year, nearly 2 feet during one January snowstorm. But even there, this winter was drier in many places. Martin said Beech Mountain got just 12.5 inches of snow, compared with a normal of 70 inches.

And by the way, where temperatures are low enough, some places are actually getting more snow amid climate change, like the West and Northeast.

"It's still cold enough for them to get snow there," Scheff said. "And since climate change is causing all rain, all sorts of all precipitation events, to get more intense, that means that when it snows (in the Northeast) these days, it snows harder than it did, say six years ago. It's not way harder, right? But it's harder enough to be measured."

Charlotte's high Monday was only expected to reach the low 50s. But almost on cue with the start of spring, warmer weather is on the way. Temperatures should be in the mid-60s Tuesday and Wednesday, near 79 degrees Thursday and 82 degrees on Friday.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.