Climate Normals Background Information

The United States used a standard "30-Year normal" in its official climate data records.  The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) in Asheville, NC is the official location where the data are stored and the 30-year normals are calculated.  However, this 30-year normal or average is not recalculated at the start of each new year.  Instead, the 30-year normals are computed once every 10 years.  For example, the last 30 year normals covered the period of 1981-2010 and have just been replaced by the 1991-2020 normals.  The next set of 30-year normals will cover the period 2001-2030.  Year to year variation in weather in the U.S. can be quite extreme, therefore the normals are not calculated each year but instead every 10 years helping to smooth out the year to year variations. 

The new 1991-2020 normals were integrated into the Lincoln Weather and Climate Web sites starting in early May 2021.  Although this is later than the cutoff date of December 31, 2020 for the data going into the current 30-year normals, it took about three months to quality check all of the data at the NCEI.  The new 30-year normals were released to the climate centers on May 4, 2021. 

Is a "Normal" the Climate You Would "Expect"? 
Direct Quote from the NCEI  "Climate normals are a useful way to describe the average weather of a location. Several statistical measures are  computed as part of the normals, including measures of central tendency (such as the mean or median), of dispersion or how spread out the values are (such as the standard deviation or inter-quartile range), and of frequency or probability of   occurrence.  Over the decades the term "normal", to the lay person, has come to be most closely associated with the mean or average.  In this context, a "climatic normal" is simply the arithmetic average of the values over a 30-year period (generally, three consecutive decades).  A person unfamiliar with climate and climate normals may perceive the normal to be the climate that one should expect to happen.   It's important to note that the normal may, or may not, be what one would "expect" to happen. This is especially true with precipitation in dry climates, such as the desert southwestern region of the United States, and with temperature at continental locations which frequently experience large swings from cold air masses to warm air masses". 

The NCEI official Internet site which has a large amount of background information on the 30-year climate normals can be found at: