Climate change continued to reshape El Paso in 2020, with the Sun City recording its second-highest average annual temperature in records that date back to 1887.
El Paso’s three hottest years on record have occurred in the past four years; nine of the 11 hottest years have occurred since 2011.
A scorching summer — El Paso’s second-warmest on record, behind 1994 — drove much of the rising average temperature.
El Paso had 56 days above 100 degrees, the second-highest number on record. For only the second time in history, El Paso experienced triple-digit highs in every month between May and September.
Triple-digit heat in the summer used to be the exception in El Paso, in large part because of our 3,800-foot elevation. But the number of such days has risen steadily over the decades, then shot up dramatically in the second decade of the 21st century.
While the impact of climate change is most noticeable in El Paso’s summers, the warming Earth has caused El Paso temperatures to rise throughout the year. We also had our second-warmest spring on record in 2020, and our third-warmest fall.
The net result is that El Paso’s average temperature has been rising rapidly in recent years.
El Paso’s warming trend has become quite pronounced in the past 30 years.
A variety of factors can cause weather changes from year to year, such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation cycle. One way to smooth out year-to-year changes is to create a five-year rolling average of temperatures for El Paso.
El Paso’s five-year rolling average temperature has gone from 63 degrees in 1990 to 67.9 degrees in 2020, an 8 percent increase in just 30 years.
The continuing impacts of climate change will present massive challenges to El Paso. The cost of cooling will make it increasingly expensive to live in El Paso; many of the crops grown in the region will no longer thrive. In short, El Paso will increasingly become less habitable for people.
Most large cities have adopted plans to address climate change; El Paso has not significantly addressed the issue since a 2008 “Livable City Sustainability Plan,” which included four paragraphs on climate change in a 63-page report. Plan El Paso, the city’s 25-year development plan adopted in 2012, mentions climate change 12 times in more than 700 pages spread over two volumes.
In a recent article for ProPublica, the journalist Abrahm Lustgarten said climate change has left the United States “a nation on the cusp of a great transformation. Across the United States, some 162 million people — nearly 1 in 2 — will most likely experience a decline in the quality of their environment, namely more heat and less water. For 93 million of them, the changes could be particularly severe, and by 2070, our analysis suggests, if carbon emissions rise at extreme levels, at least 4 million Americans could find themselves living at the fringe, in places decidedly outside the ideal niche for human life. The cost of resisting the new climate reality is mounting.”