Mississippi is slowly warming

By JACK RYAN ENTERPRISE JOURNAL,

Given the beastly hot weather of the past few days, this may come as a surprise. But according to a review of federal weather data going back to 1895, Mississippi is right in the middle of the area where temperatures have been increasing at the lowest rate.

This week The Washington Post website featured a story about how warming temperatures are already affecting part of the United States. In some places, such as the East Coast from Maryland to Maine, average temperatures have risen 2 degrees or more. New Jersey and Long Island, in eastern New York, have seen much larger increases of 4 degrees.

The Post’s website included a color-coded map of temperature changes throughout the country between 1895 and 2018. If global warming is your thing, this map is worth a look.

The country’s historical trend was rising temperatures from 1895 to the 1930s, followed by a slight cooling until the 1970s, when temperatures started rising again.

One interesting theory holds that stronger environmental regulations on smokestacks and vehicle exhaust may have contributed to the recent increases. Industrial soot particles had damaging health effects, but they may have blocked some of the sun’s intensity.

The environment is better off without such pollution, and now temperatures are rising in many places. That’s why it’s a shock to see the map’s light tan and light blue colors in a belt from north Georgia west to Oklahoma and even parts of southeast Texas. This means the temperatures in these areas are not rising rapidly, and the website also allows readers to check the change of any county in America.

Pike County’s average annual temperature has increased just 0.3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895. That is one-third of 1 degree; and it is one-sixth of the country’s average increase of 1.9 degrees over the past 12 decades.

The figures are even lower in neighboring counties: 0.2 degrees in Walthall and Lincoln counties, and 0.1 degrees in Amite County.

In the Jackson area, Hinds County’s average temperature is unchanged since 1895. Rankin County’s and Madison County’s averages actually decreased by 0.2 degrees.

Much of north Mississippi has seen a lower average temperature over the decades. Lafayette County, home to Oxford, must have one of the best records in the country: It’s average temperature is down 0.7 degrees.

Noting that the South is the only region “that has not warmed significantly since the late 1800s,” the Post says scientists believe oceanic atmospheric cycles played a role in this. But it adds that the region’s temperatures have been increasing since the 1960s along with the rest of the country’s.

Other possibilities for the region’s avoidance of warmer temperatures come to mind. The South has developed tremendously in the last half century, but the region still has a lot of trees. Maybe all the oxygen those pines churn out slows the pace of warming.

Most likely, though, this can be explained by the fact that the South was already hot in the summertime — as the last few days have proven yet again. The story makes it clear that the biggest effects of higher temperatures are milder winters in northern states.

It would be fun for Mississippi to promote itself as showing the rest of the country how to prevent excessive warming. But there is a warning signal in the statistics.

Each county’s chart shows its annual difference from the long-term average. In the last four years (2015-18), and in five of the last seven, Pike County’s average temperature has been 2 degrees higher than its long-term records. If that trend continues, there’s no doubt that warmer weather is on the way.

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