According to NOAA, 2012 will go into the record books as the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States with the year consisting of a record warm spring, second warmest summer, fourth warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn.
A brutal combination of a widespread drought and a mostly absent winter season pushed the average annual U.S. temperature last year up to 55.32 degrees, a full degree warmer than the old record set in 1998, according to NOAA. Records date back as far as 1895.
This included more than 30,000 daily record high temperatures that were either tied or broken, including 356 all-time record highs!
NOAA says the U.S. heat is part climate change in action and natural weather variations.
The drought that struck almost two-thirds of the nation and a La Nina weather event helped push temperatures higher, along with climate change from man-made greenhouse gas emissions, said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University.
“These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate,” said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. “And they are costing many billions of dollars.”
NOAA says every state in the CONUS had annual temperatures which were above average for the year but 19 states including Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska South Dakota, Wyoming, Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Delaware, all observed their warmest years on record.
Of the seasonal record warmth, NOAA reported the spring of 2012 will go in the books as the season with the warmest departure from average, with temperatures averaging 5.2 degrees above normal.
The summer of 2012 also featured above average temperatures with the nation averaging 2.6 degrees above normal during the summer months of June, July and August.
Cooler weather arrived in time for Autumn, as much of the nation east of the Mississippi River observed below average temperatures.
However, the west remained warm and counterbalanced the cooling in the eastern United States, resulting in the record warm year.
In addition to the record annual warmth, the U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation.
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.
2012 saw 11 disasters that reached the $1 billion threshold in losses including hurricanes Sandy and Isaac and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley, according to the NOAA.