Posts Tagged ‘National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’

Well, it’s official.  According to scientists with The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 55.3 degrees Farenheit.  That’s 3.2 degrees above normal and a full degree higher than the previous warmest year recorded — 1998.  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.

2012 was also a historic year for “extreme” weather, according to NOAA. 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 Ohio Valley, 2012 was second only to 1998 in the agency’s “extreme” weather index.  2012 was also the driest year on record for the U.S., with 26.57 inches of average precipitation — 2.57 inches below average. Those dry conditions created an ideal environment for wildfires in the West, which charred 9.2 million acres — the third highest amount ever recorded.  At this writing, more than 60% of the country is still in drought, and while down from over 95% at the height of the 2011 drought, nearly 12% of Texas still remains in “exceptional” drought, the highest drought category on the US Drought Monitor scale.

Each year since 2001 has been among the warmest on record worldwide, with 2012 likely to be no exception despite the cooling influence of La Niña early in the year.  If this warming trend continues, extreme weather events and major impacts on agriculture will probably continue to have an effect on the U.S. economy.

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According to a story on MSNBC, scientists can’t blame any single weather event on global warming, but they now believe they can assess how climate change has altered the odds of such events happening,   Click here to read the AP story, Global warming tied to risk of weather extremesClick here to download a copy of NOAA’s State of the Climate 2011 Report.

Tom Peterson of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is an editor of the report that includes the analyses published by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society one of which looked at the Texas drought last year.  If you are from Texas you know that we suffered through record heat and low precipitation in 2011 that left most of the state in “exceptional” drought (the highest level of drought classification) well into 2012.

Meterologists attribute last year’s weather in the south to a La Nina weather pattern, caused by the cooling of the central Pacific Ocean, La Nina generally cools global temperatures but tends to make the southern United States warmer and drier than usual.  In the report analysis, scientists wondered, beyond that, would global warming affect the chances of such an extreme event happening?

To find out, they studied computer climate simulations for La Nina years, focusing on Texas. They compared the outcome of three such years in the 1960s with that of 2008. They used 2008 because their deadline for the study didn’t allow enough time to generate thousands of new simulations with fresh data from 2011.  The two years were similar in having a La Nina and in amounts of greenhouse gases in the air.

The idea of the study, they said, was to check the likelihood of such a heat wave both before and after there was a lot of man-made climate change, which is primarily from burning fossil fuels like coal and oil.

Their conclusion: Global warming has made such a Texas heat wave about 20 times more likely to happen during a La Nina year.

This has grave implications for Texas for the next La Nina pattern.  Over the last several months, Texas legislators have been meeting and taking testimony about the drought’s impacts on the states’ water supplies and stability of our electric grid.  Right now, policies are being put in place that makes it more attractive for electricity generators to pull old polluting plants out of mothball and run them full out during times of electrical shortage emergencies rather than investing in peak energy use forms of renewable energy (like solar and coastal wind).  This creates a vicious cycle – increasing global warming gasses emitted, that increase global warming, that increases the likelihood that we will have more extreme heat waves during La Nina years, and on and on.

Texas needs to incentivise a move away from sources of electric generation that contributes to both global warming gas emissions and intensive water use.

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According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the last 12 months have been the warmest in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895, averaging 55.7 degrees Fahrenheit — nearly three degrees warmer than the average May-April, and depending on the numbers for May 2012, the June 2011-May 2012 period will likely surpass this 12-month record.

But more importantly, NOAA is concerned about the lack of precipitation and the development of drought going into summer and the agricultural growing season. This includes the regions of: the Southeast, the Southern Rockies and Southern Plains, and the Northeast.  But parts of Texas are already slipping back into drought status.  We hope that the current rains will help Central Texas, but we have a lot of summer to go and our groundwater levels are still at lower than levels than many communities like.

Highlights from the NOAA report:

12-month temps: Between May 2011 and April 2012 temperatures were 2.8 degrees above average, topping the earlier record of 2.7 degrees warmer set in November 1999 to October 2000. All 10 warmest consecutive 12 months have been since 1999.

Cities with record warmth in January-April include: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Philadelphia, Tampa and Washington.

April temps: Last month was the third warmest April on record at 55 degrees — 3.6 degrees above average.

The monthly report follows one issued by the agency for March that found 15,000 records were broken in what is now the warmest March on record.

NOAA does not attribute the warmer temperatures solely to manmade global warming since other, natural factors influence weather as well. Instead, it notes that that the warmth is indicative of what one would expect with climate change.

Texas contributed greatly to the warmth of the nation for the past 12 months.

All-Time Record Highs (Any Month)

These Texas cities recorded temperatures in 2011 that exceeded any temperature on record for any month.

  • Amarillo, Texas – 111 on June 26 (records since 1892)
  • Borger, Texas – 113 on June 26 (records since 1949)
  • Dalhart, Texas – 110 on June 26 (records since 1948)
  • Childress, Texas – 117 on June 26 (records since 1893)
  • Austin, Texas – 112 (tie) on August 28 (records since 1897)
  • Houston, Texas – 109 (tie) on August 27 (records since 1889)

Heat Streaks & Days of 100+ Heat

  • Midland, Texas – Record 64 days with 100+ degree highs in 2011. Previous record: 52 days in 1964.
  • Wichita Falls, Texas – Record 52 straight days with 100+ degree highs June 22 through August 12. Record 100 days of 100+ highs and 12 days of 110+ highs. All previous records from 1980.
  • Austin, Texas – 27 consecutive days with 100-degree highs July 17 through August 12. Breaks previous record of 21 straight days (July 12 – Aug. 1, 2001). 85 days of 100-degree heat in 2011 breaks record of 69 days in 1925.
  • Dallas, Texas – 70 days with 100-degree heat sets new record for any year. Previous record: 69 days in 1980.
  • Waco, Texas – Record 44 straight days with 100-degree highs June 30 – August 12. Record 87 total days of 100+ heat in 2011 (old record from 1980).
  • Tyler, Texas – 46 consecutive days with 100-degree highs June 28 through August 12. 79 days with 100+ highs in 2011 also sets new record.
  • Amarillo, Texas – 50 days with 100-degree heat in 2011 sets new record for any year. 58 straight days of 90+ heat also sets new record.
  • San Angelo, Texas – 98 days with 100-degree heat sets new record for any year.
  • Abilene, Texas – 80 days with 100-degree heat sets new record for any year.
  • Houston, Texas- 24 straight days with 100-degree heat August 1 through August 24 breaks the longest streak on record of 14 days in 1980. 46 days with 100-degree heat      in 2011 breaks record of 32 days in 1980.
  • College Station, Texas – 66 days with 100-degree heat in 2011. Old record 58 days in 1917.
  • Lufkin, Texas – 62 days with 100-degree heat in 2011 breaks record of 42 days in 1998. Record 26 straight days of 100+ degree heat (previous record: 14 straight days in July 1980).
  • Del Rio, Texas – 83 days with 100-degree heat in 2011 breaks record of 78 days in 1953.
  • Victoria, Texas – 56 days with 100-degree heat in 2011 breaks record of 42 days in 1912.

While all indications are that this summer will not be as bad as last summer, there are still concerns about the state’s water supplies, the stability of our electric grid and the impact another drought, even a mild one, will have on the state’s agricultural industry.  So let’s all hope for more rain in May to fill up our lakes and our aquifers.

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