2012 Warmest Year on Record in U.S.

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.