Wednesday, January 09, 2013

2012 Was U.S. Warmest In Recorded History; 3.2°F Above Average

Jan 8: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Climatic Data Center, released a 2012 State of the Climate data and information indicating that "2012 was warmest and second most extreme year on record for the contiguous U.S."
    According to summary information, 2012 was an historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms; however, tornado activity was below average. 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.

    The average precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record for the nation. At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions. The dry conditions proved ideal for wildfires in the West, charring 9.2 million acres -- the third highest on record.

    The data indicates that 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 land-falling 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.

    NOAA also reported on Alaska and Hawaii and indicated in summary that Alaska was cooler and slightly wetter than average during 2012. The year began very cold for the State with a January temperature 14.0°F below the 1971-2000 average. Each subsequent season was also cooler than average, resulting in an annual temperature 2.3°F below average. Much of 2012 was also wetter than average, and the annual precipitation total was 9.2 percent above average. Drought conditions continued to plague Hawaii during 2012. At the beginning of 2012, 47.4 percent of the State was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. By the end of the year, the percent area experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought expanded to 63.3 percent of the State.

    Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a statement on the NOAA data release saying, "The facts speak for themselves -- whether it is NOAA's announcement today that 2012 was the hottest year on record or the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, predictions of dangerous climate change impacts are coming true before our eyes. We need to focus now on what we must do to address climate change so that we can protect our people, local communities, and the nation's economy."
    Representative Ed Markey (D-MA), the Ranking Member on the House Natural Resources Committee issued a statement saying, "Climate change is costing American lives and livelihoods. In our warmest year on record, the United States suffered the most widespread drought since the Dust Bowl, record wildfires that engulfed neighborhoods, and superstorm Sandy, which killed more than 100 people and could cost taxpayers $60 billion. Our planet is warming, our oceans are rising, and our storms are strengthening. Congress can no longer afford to watch the devastation from an air conditioned perch. We must make 2013 a year for climate action. Waiting around for the next superstorm to flood Boston's Faneuil Hall or the Boston Garden is not an option."
    The Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) disputes the NOAA information and issued a report at the Doha UNFCCC meeting in December 2012, indicating, ". . .the latest peer-reviewed studies, data and analysis undermine the case that the weather is more 'extreme' or 'unprecedented.' On every key measure, claims of extreme weather in our current climate fail to hold up to scrutiny." The report, Extreme Weather Report 2012, indicates that, "Extreme weather events are ever present, and there is no evidence of systematic increases."
    Access a release and details on the NOAA data (click here). Access the statement from Sen. Boxer (click here). Access the statement from Rep. Markey (click here). Access the CFACT's 35-page report with extensive links (click here). [#Climate]
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