If you thought last year was warmer than normal the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says you thought correctly. The agency announced yesterday that the contiguous United States experienced its hottest year since record-keeping began in 1895.
NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) calculated the average temperature across the nation in 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. This was 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average and the warmest year since 1895. The year bested the previous warmest, 1998, by 1.0 degree.
At the state level, every state in the lower 48 saw above average temperatures. Of those, 19 had record-setting warmth and 26 more will count 2012 among their 10 hottest years.
In addition to the heat, the year was notable for its precipitation – or rather the lack thereof.
Precipitation averaged 26.57 inches, far below the 29.14 inch 20th century average. This will put 2012 into the record books as the 15th driest year over the 118 year record-keeping period.
Drought gripped a large part of the nation’s midsection during the year with Wyoming and Nebraska saw their driest year ever recorded. Only 6 of the 48 contiguous states recorded above normal precipitation.
The agency’s U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) reflected the warm and dry year as well. Factoring in various types of climatic extremes, 2012 ranked as the second most extreme since 1910.
NOAA Top Ten U.S. Weather/Climate Events for 2012
1 Hurricane/Post-Tropical Storm Sandy
2 Contiguous U.S. Drought
3 Contiguous U.S. Warmest Year on Record
4 Record Wildfire Activity
5 Multi-State Derecho
6 March 2nd-3rd Severe Weather Outbreak
7 Alaska Cold Winter/Snow Records
8 Near-Record Low Great Lakes Levels
9 Contiguous U.S. Snow Cover
10 Hurricane Isaac