By Chris Spears

DENVER (CBS4) – A big change is coming to your local weather forecast starting in May when NOAA releases a new set of “normals” for the United States. Climate Normals are important for placing big weather events into historical context.

But the change comes with a big learning curve. Despite the climate still warming there’s a real possibility that things won’t look so bad initially. Experts are predicting a smaller number of “above normal” days starting this summer because we’ll be comparing temperatures to the new normal, which will undoubtedly be higher after the very warm past decade.

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Climate data for Denver on April 5, 2021. (credit: CBS)

Climate Normals consist of an average of weather data for 30 years. The standard dates back to 1935 when the International Meteorological Organization, now known as the World Meteorological Organization, instructed members to establish normals for the 30-year period between 1901-1930.

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We currently use data between 1981-2010 for roughly 9,800 weather stations around the country. Starting in May those numbers will shift to data calculated between 1991-2020.

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In addition to 30-year normals NOAA also calculates data for other time periods as well, including 1901-2000. NOAA’s normals are created using a complicated set of calculations as opposed to just simple averages. The calculations ensure that daily normals match monthly normals and they also account for complicated situations, such as when a climate station moves.

Chris Spears