The federal government’s leading atmospheric research agency published data this week showing 2019 was North Carolina’s hottest year on record.
The data comes from an annual report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). North Carolina stands out as one of a handful of states that had its hottest year in 2019. Last year, the state’s average temperature was 61.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.7 degrees above the state’s historical average. Those numbers might not seem high, but they translate to noticeable daily temperatures, according to Dr. Kathie Dello, a climatologist with the North Carolina State Climate Office, based at NC State University.
"Even a small shift in the annual average means that we’re setting more extreme daytime temperatures, or nighttime temperatures, to get to that point," Dello said. "So if you think about any sort of average - moving it in that direction - you need a series of higher numbers to get there. We really feel our climate through our extremes."
Dello said those higher nighttime temperatures don’t allow people to cool off and can lead to health problems. They also can prevent the growth of certain crops like peaches, and make it easier for diseases like dengue fever and Zika to thrive, because they're carried by insects like mosquitoes that do well in warmer weather
The report shows Charlotte also broke two records - 2019 was the city’s second warmest year, with an average temperature of 63.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.7 degrees above the city’s historical average. It was also Charlotte’s sixth wettest year, with 12.4 inches of rain above average. In the Southeastern region, South Carolina had its second warmest year, as did Florida and Virginia, while Georgia and Alabama had their warmest years. Dello said these warming trends all fit into the trend of climate change, the effects of which North Carolinians can see in Australia's bushfires and Europe's summer heatwaves. As the world warms and changes, so does the region and the state of North Carolina.