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Record-setting warm year in Tucson seems "consistent with" climate change projections, UA scientist says

Record-setting warm year in Tucson seems "consistent with" climate change projections, UA scientist says

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No climate scientist worth his acidifying sea salt will speculate on whether one year of record warm weather is due to global warming or other forces of human-caused climate change.

But Gregg Garfin, a University of Arizona's climate scientist, said 2014's record warm temperature in Tucson -- which matched the global record warm temperature for the past year -- "certainly seems consistent" with projections that UA scientists and others have made for future global warming.

His comment matched what a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official said in October, after the year's first 10 months of global temperatures also broke a record. That streak continued through November, but the annual global temperature data isn't in yet.

This year's heat is what scientists expect from man-made global warming, Deke Arndt, climate monitoring chief for NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, told the Associated Press at the time.

Many climate scientists say the burning of coal, oil and gas traps heat, changing the climate.

What he would find surprising would be "if we had several years when it went down, year after year," Garfin said recently.

Instead, four of Tucson's six warmest years on record including 2014 have occurred in the past six years. The National Weather Service has been keeping records here since 1895.

This city's third warmest year on record was 2012, and its sixth warmest year was 2013, the National Weather Service said in its 2014 end of year weather report. Tucson's fourth warmest year on record was 2009. Its second warmest year was 1989 and its fifth warmest year was 1994.

Average temperatures across six Southwestern states have risen 1.6 degrees since the year 1900, Garfin has said. Deputy director of UA's Institute for the Environment, he was executive editor of the 2013 Southwest Climate Assessment, a federally financed document that integrated the work of 120 researchers.

The assessment predicted that by 2099, Tucson's average temperature will rise about 8 degrees F -- putting it a degree higher than Yuma's average temperature today. Yuma is currently 7 degrees hotter on average than is Tucson.

2014 was also the 16th straight year of above normal temperatures, the weather service report said. Since 1984, only one year -- 1998 -- has had  a below normal average annual temperature.

Twenty-four daily temperature records were set during 2014 -- 7 high temperature records and 17 high minimum temperature records, the service wrote.

Last year's average yearly high temperature of 85.7° ranked as the 3rd warmest on record, the weather service said. But hotter nights were the bigger drivers of 2014's record warmth.

Tucson's average yearly low temperature of 58.7° ranked as the warmest on record, breaking the previous record of 57.5° from 2005, the weather service said. This warmth matches a longer-term pattern of increasingly warm nights here that many scientists attribute to the urban heat island effect, caused in part by pavement and development.

Looking ahead to 2015, the national Climate Prediction Center predicts that weak El Niño conditions will be present through meteorological spring, which starts about March 1st.

(The climate center is separate from the weather service, with both operating under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The weather service forecasts daily and weekly weather swings. The climate center looks at the long term.)

The start of meteorological spring marks the start of when temperatures generally begin warming for the year -- 19 days ahead of when this year's astronomical spring starts on March 20th. That's the day most people think spring begins.

For temperatures, the majority of the year has enhanced probabilities of temperatures being above normal, with another hot summer likely, the climate center predicts.

It also predicts enhanced probabilities of above normal precipitation during the rest of winter 2014-15 into the early part of meteorological spring. Then, there's an equal chance for above or below normal precipitation for the rest of the year, said the weather service's annual roundup.

The monsoon? Don't hold your breath.

"No clear signal on how the 2015 monsoon will shape up," the weather service said.

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