Climate Change Made 2012 the Hottest Year in Continental United States Since 1895, NOAA Reports
2012 was the hottest year in the United States since official record-keeping began in 1895, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a press release on Jan. 8, 2013. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average, and one degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded in 1998.
All 48 states in the contiguous United States had above-average annual temperatures last year, including 19 that broke annual records and an additional 26 that had one of their 10 warmest years. Only Georgia (11th warmest), Oregon (12th warmest), and Washington (30th warmest) had annual temperatures that did not fall in their top tens.
2012’s record warmth is “clearly symptomatic of a changing climate,” said Thomas Karl, Director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. “That doesn’t mean every season and every year is going to be breaking all-time records, but you’re going to see this with increasing frequency.”
The NOAA’s US Climate Extremes Index also reported that the occurrence in 2012 of “extreme” weather events, “such as record or near-record warmth, dry spells, or rainy periods,” increased by 19% over the historical average. 2012 was the second most extreme year on record since 1910, and saw 11 disasters that reached the $1 billion threshold in damages.
According to Shaye Wolf, Climate Science Director with the Center for Biological Diversity, “this disturbing news puts the heat on President (Barack) Obama to take immediate action against carbon pollution. Science tells us that our rapidly warming planet will endure more heat waves, droughts and extreme weather. The president needs to start making full use of the Clean Air Act to fight greenhouse gas emissions, before it’s too late.”
John R. Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, in a statement before the US Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, stated: “It is popular again to claim that extreme events, such as the current central US drought, are evidence of human-caused climate change. Actually, the Earth is very large, the weather is very dynamic, and extreme events will continue to occur somewhere, every year, naturally… This partial warming is unrelated to the accumulation of heat due to the extra greenhouse gases, but related to human development around the thermometer stations…”
The NOAA expects to have global temperature data for 2012 “sometime in the coming weeks,” according to NBC News. According to Jake Crouch, a climate scientist from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, 2012 is expected to be “in the top ten” warmest years globally in recorded history. As of 2010, the United States had 4.5% of the world’s population but was responsible for about 28% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.
Elizabeth Chuck, “NOAA: 2012 Was Warmest Year Ever for US, Second Most ‘Extreme,'” usnews.nbcnews.com, Jan. 8, 2013
Justin Gillis, “Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in US,” nytimes.com, Jan. 8, 2013
Mark Memmott, “It’s in the Books: 2012 Was Warmest Year on Record for Lower 48 States,” npr.org, Jan. 8, 2013
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “State of the Climate National Overview Annual 2012,” ncdc.noaa.gov, Jan. 8, 2013
South African Press Association, “2012 Warmest, and Second Most Extreme Year on Record for US,” timeslive.co.za, Jan. 9, 2013
Ker Than, “2012: Hottest Year on Record for Continental US,” news.nationalgeographic.com, Jan. 9, 2013