Record-Setting Rain and Heat? This Is the New Normal


The state climatologist of North Carolina, Kathie Dello, highlights ways that NC State is helping us understand, mitigate and prepare for the impacts of climate change.

I’m the director of the North Carolina Climate Office, which is the go-to source for expertise in North Carolina’s climate. But if you call me to ask if there’s a downpour on the way, I probably won’t know the answer off the top of my head. That may seem odd, but it’s because I’m mostly thinking about the climate – and weather is something a little different.

We climate experts all have our favorite analogies for the difference between weather and climate. Weather – or the short-term events a place experiences – is equivalent to your mood. Climate – or average conditions over a longer time period – is your personality. Here in North Carolina, we know our climate is marked by mild winters and hot summers, with no distinct wet season. We can see days swing from 74°F on one day to 45°F the next.

However, that analogy about moods and personalities is somewhat imperfect in a rapidly changing world. With climate change, we’re supercharging our atmosphere, like a baseball player on steroids. And even small shifts in our overall climate lead to huge changes in our extremes. As our personality shifts slightly, we see more of those bad mood days – and those moods can be worse than what we’re used to.

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