April 2018 Was Coldest in 20 Years, What Does This Mean for Climate Change?

Spring was a bit of a late bloomer this year, and cold temperatures affected much of the contiguous United States for the month of April. In fact, the temperatures were so low in the lower-48 that they set the record for the coldest average temperature for the month of April in 20-plus years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The average temperature was just 48.9 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.2 degrees less than the 124-year average. "It was a persistent weather pattern that resulted in the cold month," Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, told Newsweek.

Cold air filtered down from the Arctic, and there were multiple cold fronts in April, many of which brought snowfall to some areas in the north-central region of the country. That snow contributed to the colder temperatures: "If you have snow on the ground, that can suppress daytime temperatures," said Crouch.

Those cold fronts put April in place as the 13th coldest April on the 124-year record. While some parts of the country were seeing abnormally cold temperatures, other areas in the Southwest were warmer than average, and dry, according to the NOAA. Wildfires spread across Arizona and Oklahoma, and drought conditions worsened in some states. In addition to wacky temperatures and drought, Hawaii saw incredibly heavy rainfall.

The below-average temperatures farther north were not normal for the U.S.: "We don't have a lot of cold months anymore," said Crouch. But the cold doesn't mean anything in terms of a globally changing climate.

"One cold month does not change the long-term trends," Crouch told Newsweek. In terms of overall temperatures for April, "we do still have a warming trend," as does the rest of the world.

"The contiguous United States was really out of step with the rest of the world" for the month of April, Crouch noted, calling the cold temperatures an "anomaly."

The cold trend likely won't continue. "Just looking at the first nine days of May, most of the contiguous U.S. has been really warm," said Crouch. The Climate Prediction Center is also predicting a warm May.

snowy flowers
Flowers bud on trees in an early spring storm in New York City on April 2. Spencer Platt/Getty Images