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Richmond’s 2020 Temperatures Above Average, Again

graph of climate data
A new graphic puts Richmond's extreme heat into perspective. (Image: Climate Central)

An updated Warming Stripes graphic for Richmond shows that 2020 was once again hotter than the city’s average temperature over the last century.

The nonprofit Climate Central released the graphic this week, as the city’s muggy summer heat kicks in. It shows Richmond’s yearly average temperature going back to 1897 - blue bars are cooler than normal, red bars are warmer. It’s based on the global version by climate scientist Ed Hawkins.

There is a clear density of red bars on the right side of the image, representing, among other things, that Richmond hasn’t had a below-average year since 2003. 

That red caught the eye of NBC 12 meteorologist Andrew Freiden, who shared the graphic in a Twitter thread this week.

Freiden has been at Channel 12 in Richmond for over two decades. When he started, he wasn’t totally convinced that global warming was real or driven by humans.

“I went from maybe sort of an agnostic slash maybe even a little skeptical when I was in my twenties, to someone who’s sort of, I guess you could say, seen the light,” Freiden told VPM.

All he’s seen in that 20 years - data at the local, national and global scale -  has changed his mind.

“The evidence leads me to the conclusion that Earth’s climate is being changed by us, by people, more than any other thing that you can come up with,” Freiden said.

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As temperatures rise, so does the amount of moisture in the air - one reason you might notice more sticky summer nights and heavier summer storms.

He’s not a climatologist, and is clear about that,  but feels responsible for broadcasting the info he has access to. “I mean, it’s just science, and part of our job [as meteorologists] is to be the scientists at the station and share and discuss things like this,” Freiden said.

In Richmond, the biggest changes he’s seen are an increase in the number of warm, muggy summer nights - long streaks of nights in the mid-70s offer little break from the heat - and increasingly intense heavy rain events.

He knows there are people out there who share the skepticism he once felt,  but is hopeful that soon, most stories on the topic will be about “innovative ways that people are attempting to mitigate climate change.”

Freiden thinks tools like the Warming Stripes can help us get there.