The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has gone ahead and confirmed the depressing obvious: 2012 was the hottest ever for the contiguous U.S.
The average temperature of 55.3 degrees beat the previous mark set in 1988 by a wide margin – with temperatures above normal in every month between June 2011 and September 2012; a 16-month stretch that hasn’t occurred since the government began keeping such records in 1895.
“The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation,” the report states. “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.”
Federal scientists are warning that future years will likely feature weather that is “hotter, drier and potentially more extreme.”
“Last year’s record temperature is ‘clearly symptomatic of a changing climate,’ Thomas R. Karl, who directs NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, told the Washington Post. Americans can now see the sustained warmth over the course of their own lifetimes — ‘something we haven’t seen before.’ He added, ‘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.’ ”