The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998 — NOAA said in a recent report. All 48 states in the contiguous U.S. had above-average annual temperatures last year, including 19 that broke annual records, from Connecticut through Utah.
It was also a historic year for “extreme” weather, scientists with the federal agency said. With 11 disasters that surpassed $1 billion in losses, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac, and tornadoes across the Great Plains, Texas, and the Southeast and OhioValley, NOAA said 2012 was second only to 1998 in the agency’s “extreme” weather index. However, the dollar costs may well indeed pass the 1998 level because of the severity of the events.
The average temperature for the US was 55.3 degrees, one full degree hotter than the previous record in 1998 and 3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th century average. Nineteen states — including Texas, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma — had their highest annual average temperatures on record; 26 others had years that ranked in the top-10 hottest ever.
Every state was affected from coast to coast. In the west it was one of the worst wildfire seasons ever. Colorado had the most expensive fire in state history with over 650 homes destroyed. New Mexico’s largest wildfire on record burned more than a quarter million acres.
In March tornadoes in Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky left 42 people dead. In August Hurricane Isaac came ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi leaving 9 dead and 4,700 homes damaged or destroyed. In October SuperStorm Sandy wreaked havoc on the New York and New Jersey coastlines leaving 131 people killed, 650,000 homes damaged or destroyed and over 8 million without power, some for weeks at a time.
The devastating drought continues into 2013 covering 61% of the continental US. The average precipitation total was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average — good for the 15th driest year on record. Rainfall in Texas is more than 16 inches below normal.
Wild fires continue to rage across Australia and temperatures have become so hot the country’s Bureau of Meteorology was forced to add a new color—deep purple—to show areas that have exceeded all-time heat records. Previously the Bureau’s heat index was capped at 118.4°F, but now recorded temperatures of over 122°F have pushed the limit of the scale to an unheard of 129°F.
Writing in the Guardian, Damian Carrington said:
“We already know that climate change is loading the weather dice. Scientists have shown that the European heatwave of 2003, that caused over 40,000 premature deaths, was made at least twice as likely by climate change. The Russian heatwave of 2010, that killed 50,000 and wiped out $15bn of crops, was made three times as likely by global warming and led to the warmest European summer for 500 years.”