Extreme Weather Watch: September 2012 Hottest September on Record


The average global temperature across land and ocean surfaces during September was 0.67°C (1.21°F) above the long-term 20th century average. This temperature ties with 2005 as the record warmest September in the 133-year period of record. The Northern Hemisphere tied with 2009 as second warmest on record, behind 2005. The Southern Hemisphere also ranked second warmest on record, behind 1997. It was also the highest departure from average for any month in the Southern Hemisphere since May 2010.

The average global land surface temperature was the third highest for September on record, behind 2009 (highest) and 2005 (second highest), with widespread warmth around the globe. It was the third warmest September over land in the Northern Hemisphere and fourth warmest in the Southern Hemisphere. In the higher northern latitudes, parts of east central Russia observed record warmth, as did parts of Venezuela, French Guinea, and northern Brazil closer to the tropics. Nearly all of South America was much warmer than average as were western Australia and central to eastern Europe. Far eastern Russia, a few regions in southern Africa, and parts of China were cooler than average.

September also brought the lowest Arctic sea ice extent on record. Studies have shown that man made global warming is the cause of the majority of sea ice loss that has occurred since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979. More than 4.57 million square miles of ice melted in 2012, NOAA said, which is the size of the entire U.S.and Mexico combined. The six lowest sea ice extents have all occurred in the past six years, a sign of the rapid disappearance of summer sea ice in the Far North, a development that may have far-reaching implications for weather patterns in the northern hemisphere in particular.

At the same time, in Antarctica, winter sea ice extent edged past 2006 to reach its all-time highest extent on record, although climate scientists said that this, too, is paradoxically connected to global warming.

Here’s what the first six months of 2012 brought:

Unfortunately, the first half of 2012 is not the exception. It’s becoming the new normal. In 2011, for instance, an unprecedented 14 disastrous weather events resulted in an estimated $53 billion in damage –- not including health costs. But the trend goes back much further. In fact, the 13 warmest years ever recorded have occurred since 1997, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization. June 2012 also marks the 328th consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.

The first half of 2012’s historic drought saw more than 80 percent of the country in abnormally dry or drought conditions in mid-July. Drought of course threatens our water and food supplies and is driving up the cost of everything from corn to milk. Unfortunately, drought conditions are expected to become the new normal for many parts of the country if we don’t do more to address climate change.

More than 1,100 U.S.counties — one-third of all counties in the lower 48 states –- will face higher risks of water shortages by mid-century as the result of global warming. Some states are taking steps to address long-term drought.New York, for instance, is developing comprehensive drought monitoring programs and emergency water supplies, whileOregon is implementing ways to increase water storage capacity for times of drought.

There are solutions to addressing the effects of drought. For one thing, we can stop wasting so much water, and energy that’s required to pump it around. We also need our lawmakers to quit ignoring climate change and start limiting carbon pollution that is heating our planet and increasing the intensity of extreme weather.

According to a staff report, issued by Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.):

“Beyond the loss of life and impact on communities and livelihoods, severe weather has resulted in large economic costs. The number of natural disasters has increased steadily over the past thirty years with natural disasters in 2011 resulting in the most costly toll in history —$154 billion worth of worldwide losses from floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other extreme weather events. In theUnited Statesalone, 2011 extreme weather events caused almost $60 billion in damages. This total does not include expenses associated with sickness or injuries triggered by the disasters. Given the number and severity of extreme events that have thus far occurred this year, weather-related costs in 2012 could equal or exceed those in 2011.”



John Lawrence

John Lawrence graduated from Georgia Tech, Stanford and University of California at San Diego. While at UCSD, he was one of the original writer/workers on the San Diego Free Press in the late 1960s. He founded the San Diego Jazz Society in 1984 which had grants from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and presented both local and nationally known jazz artists. His website is Social Choice and Beyond which exemplifies his interest in Economic Democracy. His book is East West Synthesis. He also blogs at Will Blog For Food. He can be reached at j.c.lawrence@cox.net.


  1. avatarbob dorn says

    And it seems like the average high temp in San Diego since the beginning of July has been, what?, about 80 degrees.

    • avatar says

      We have had over a month of over 100 degree temperatures in El Cajon in August and September including several days of 105+ temperatures. Thank God, it’s cooling down now.