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Across the Carolinas, December was warmer and drier than normal

 A cherry tree blooms in Roosevelt Wilson Park Davidson on Dec. 19, 2021.
David Boraks
A cherry tree blooms in Roosevelt Wilson Park Davidson on Dec. 19, 2021.

All those 70-plus degree days during the holidays added up to a December that was significantly warmer and drier than normal across the Carolinas. Experts say it's a sign of both short- and long-term climate trends.

This week's wintry weather aside, it's shaping up to be a mild winter in the Southeast. Average temperatures across the region last month were about 6 to 9 degrees above averages over the past 30 years, which is how federal forecasters define "normal."

It's partly because of La Nina, a Pacific weather pattern that pushes the jetstream northward, bringing higher temperatures and drought to the Southeast. And climate change is a factor, too, said climate scientist Andy Pershing of Climate Central in Princeton, New Jersey.

"If you look within the United States, winter tends to be our fastest-warming season in a lot of places, including in the Southeast," Pershing said. "That's the sort of additional climate signal that we're getting in our region."

Many cities in the Carolinas had their second or third warmest December since 1878, he said.

In Charlotte, the average temperature of 53.2 degrees was 8.5 degrees above normal. Raleigh was 8 degrees warmer, Hickory 8.7 degrees warmer and Wilmington 8.8 degrees warmer.

Meanwhile, precipitation was below normal as well — down 40% from normal in Charlotte, 50% in Raleigh and 78% in Asheville, to name a few.

Even without La Nina, Pershing says warmer, drier winters are becoming the new normal for the Carolinas because of climate change.

Copyright 2022 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.