It’s not even close—2012 was the hottest year on record since temperature records were monitored beginning in 1895; the average 2012 temperature of 55.3 degrees beat the previous 1998 record by a full degree. More than 34,000 hottest daily temperatures ever recorded were reported at weather stations throughout the country last year. This is covered in the NYT today and it seems that just about everyone had a bad weather year (some regions along the West Coast were less impacted), from drought in the Midwest that is now threatening barge traffic along the Mississippi River due to record low water levels, to low crop yields throughout a large swath of the country, with Hurricane Sandy, generated at a time when warm waters in the Atlantic gave the storm a booster shot to and revealed how vulnerable we are to large hurricane forces that fall on our major urban centers. It was largely a storm surge that did most of the damage, creating record flood levels that have never been seen in New York and along the Jersey Shore. As the Times reports, the ratio of record lows to record highs was roughly in balance through the 1970s, but is now way out of whack created by far more numerous record highs compared to lows.
While 2012 was the hottest on record for the United States, it probably won’t set the high water mark globally. For one thing 2012 was a La Niña year, which produces a more mild climate condition such that it might rank 8th or 9th when the numbers are all reported, but for the United States, a full degree difference over past years is quite remarkable. If these preliminary reports hold up, it will mean that ten of the last fifteen years are the hottest years on record.
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