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The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) today issued its monthly State of the Climate report, which showed 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S.

“2012 marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year.” according to the NOAA report.

The report noted that:

  • Every state in the contiguous U.S. had an above-average annual temperature for 2012. Nineteen states had a record warm year and an additional 26 states had one of their 10 warmest.
  • On the national scale, 2012 started off much warmer than average with the fourth warmest winter (December 2011-February 2012) on record. Winter warmth limited snow with many locations experiencing near-record low snowfall totals. The winter snow cover for the contiguous U.S. was the third smallest on record and snowpack totals across the Central and Southern Rockies were less than half of normal.
  • Spring started off exceptionally warm with the warmest March on record, followed by the fourth warmest April and second warmest May. The season’s temperature was 5.2°F above average, making it easily the warmest spring on record, surpassing the previous record by 2.0°F. The warm spring resulted in an early start to the 2012 growing season in many places, which increased the loss of water from the soil earlier than what is typical. In combination with the lack of winter snow and residual dryness from 2011, the record warm spring laid the foundation for the widespread drought conditions in large areas of the U.S. during 2012.
  • The above-average temperatures of spring continued into summer. The national-scale heat peaked in July with an average temperature of 76.9°F, 3.6°F above average, making it the hottest month ever observed for the contiguous U.S. The eighth warmest June, record hottest July, and a warmer-than-average August resulted in a summer average temperature of 73.8°F, the second hottest summer on record by only hundredths of a degree. An estimated 99.1 million people experienced 10 or more days of summer temperatures greater than 100°F, nearly one-third of the nation’s population.
  • Autumn and December temperatures were warmer than average, but not of the same magnitude as the three previous seasons. Autumn warmth in the western U.S. offset cooler temperatures in the eastern half of the country. Although the last four months of 2012 did not bring the same unusual warmth as the first 8 months of the year, the September through December temperatures were warm enough for 2012 to remain the record warmest year by a wide margin.

“NOAA’s report should sound the alarm that we can’t wait another day to start fighting climate change,” Lashof said. “The good news is that the president can start right now—by using current law and partnership with the states—to slash carbon emissions from existing power plants, which are the main source of climate-altering pollution,” said Daniel Lashof, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council‘s (NRDC) Climate and Clean Air Program. “NRDC has demonstrated that he can get big reductions at lower cost and with higher health and economic benefits than many would expect.”

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998. To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley, according to NOAA.

 

And if you think hot temperature and extreme weather is only happening in the U.S., think again. Yesterday, Jan. 7, was the hottest day in Australian history, averaged over the entire country, according to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

The high temperature averaged over Australia was 105°F (40.3°C), eclipsing the previous record of 104°F (40.2°C) set on Dec. 21, 1972. Never before in 103 years of record keeping has a heat wave this intense, wide-spread and long-lasting affected Australia. The nation’s average high temperature exceeded 102°F (39°C) for five consecutive days Jan, 2 – 6, 2013—the first time that has happened since record keeping began in 1910, according to Dr. Jeff Masters.

A new report out today by Media Matters for America reveals that even with 2012 being the hottest year on record in the continental U.S., climate coverage from mainstream media remained minimal.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

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