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Thread: Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.

  1. #1
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    Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/sc...n-us.html?_r=0


    Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S.

    By JUSTIN GILLIS


    The numbers are in: 2012, the year of a surreal March heat wave, a severe drought in the Corn Belt and a huge storm that caused broad devastation in the Middle Atlantic States, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.


    How hot was it? The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, but last year’s 55.3 degree average demolished the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit.

    If that does not sound sufficiently impressive, consider that 34,008 daily high records were set at weather stations across the country, compared with only 6,664 record lows, according to a count maintained by the Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton, using federal temperature records.

    That ratio, which was roughly in balance as recently as the 1970s, has been out of whack for decades as the country has warmed, but never by as much as it was last year.

    “The heat was remarkable,” said Jake Crouch, a scientist with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., which released the official climate compilation on Tuesday. “It was prolonged. That we beat the record by one degree is quite a big deal.”

    Scientists said that natural variability almost certainly played a role in last year’s extreme heat and drought. But many of them expressed doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. And they warned that 2012 was probably a foretaste of things to come, as continuing warming makes heat extremes more likely.

    Even so, the last year’s record for the United States is not expected to translate into a global temperature record when figures are released in the coming weeks. The year featured a La Niña weather pattern, which tends to cool the global climate over all, and scientists expect it to be the world’s eighth- or ninth-warmest year on record.


    Assuming that prediction holds up, it will mean that the 10 warmest years on record all fell within the past 15 years, a measure of how much the planet has warmed. Nobody who is under 28 has lived through a month of global temperatures that fell below the 20th-century average, because the last such month was February 1985.

    Last year’s weather in the United States began with an unusually warm winter, with relatively little snow across much of the country, followed by a March that was so hot that trees burst into bloom and swimming pools opened early. The soil dried out in the March heat, helping to set the stage for a drought that peaked during the warmest July on record.

    The drought engulfed 61 percent of the nation, killed corn and soybean crops and sent prices spiraling. It was comparable to a severe drought in the 1950s, Mr. Crouch said, but not quite as severe as the legendary Dust Bowl drought of the 1930s, which was exacerbated by poor farming practices that allowed topsoil to blow away.

    Extensive records covering the lower 48 states go back to 1895; Alaska and Hawaii have shorter records and are generally not included in long-term climate comparisons for that reason.

    Mr. Crouch pointed out that until last year, the coldest year in the historical record for the lower 48 states, 1917, was separated from the warmest year, 1998, by only 4.2 degrees Fahrenheit. That is why the 2012 record, and its one degree increase over 1998, strikes climatologists as so unusual.

    “We’re taking quite a large step above what the period of record has shown for the contiguous United States,” Mr. Crouch said.

    In addition to being the nation’s warmest year, 2012 turned out to be the second-worst on a measure called the Climate Extremes Index, surpassed only by 1998.

    Experts are still counting, but so far 11 disasters in 2012 have exceeded a threshold of $1 billion in damages, including several tornado outbreaks; Hurricane Isaac, which hit the Gulf Coast in August, and, late in the year, Hurricane Sandy, which caused damage likely to exceed $60 billion in nearly half the states, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region.

    Among those big disasters was one bearing a label many people had never heard before: the derecho, a line of severe, fast-moving thunderstorms that struck central and eastern parts of the country starting on June 29, killing more than 20 people, toppling trees and knocking out power for millions of households.

    For people who escaped both the derecho and Hurricane Sandy relatively unscathed, the year may be remembered most for the sheer breadth and oppressiveness of the summer heat wave. By the calculations of the climatic data center, a third of the nation’s population experienced 10 or more days of summer temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Among the cities that set temperature records in 2012 were Nashville; Athens, Ga.; and Cairo, Ill., all of which hit 109 degrees on June 29; Greenville, S.C., which hit 107 degrees on July 1; and Lamar, Colo., which hit 112 degrees on June 27.

    With the end of the growing season, coverage of the drought has waned, but the drought itself has not. Mr. Crouch pointed out that at the beginning of January, 61 percent of the country was still in moderate to severe drought conditions. “I foresee that it’s going to be a big story moving forward in 2013,” he said.


    A version of this article appeared in print on January 9, 2013, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: Not Even Close: 2012 Was Hottest Ever in U.S..

  2. #2
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    Hottest Ever?
    Randall Hoven

    Maybe you've seen the headlines: "Hottest year on record" and "Feeling the heat: First half of 2012 is the warmest on record."
    "It's been a hot year. In fact, the first six months of 2012 accounted for the warmest January-through-June period on record for the contiguous U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Monday."
    Aha! Note the phrase, "contiguous U.S." You know how big the contiguous US is? Its area is just 1.5% of the planet's surface. Brazil is bigger.
    So how did the planet do this year? NASA/GISS has the data, but only through May so far. Here is where 2012 global temperatures stand (Combined Land-Surface Air and Sea-Surface Water).

    2nd warmest May.
    6th warmest spring (Mar-May).
    10th warmest Jan-May.
    14th warmest winter (Dec-Feb).
    21st warmest January.
    In fact, every single month of 1998 was warmer than that same month in 2012 so far.
    And how much about an entire year can we tell from its first five months? Not all that much, actually. Since 1881, the whole year average could differ from the first-five-month average by up to +0.16 degrees Celsius. If 2012 stays within that range, it could turn out to the hottest on record (by about 0.01 degrees), or only the 20th hottest.
    Despite the alarmist headlines, the underlying data are consistent with the conclusion that global warming has been in hiatus for the last 15 years or so.
    If anything, one might be curious why the contiguous US reads hotter than the rest of the planet. Could it have something to do with where we put the thermometers?

    Randall Hoven can be followed on Twitter.



  3. #3
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    "Ever" is defined as "since accurate widespread record keeping has occured", i.e. ~1850 or so.

    So, 160 years. About the first 75 of which are of very questionable accuracy.

    160

    On a planet that is 4,560,000,000 years old.

    160 vs. 4,560,000,000

    "Ever" takes on a new light in that respect.

    But yes, it does seem unseasonably warm, in my 25 years of living here, this year in D.C. I will certainly grant you that.

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    Just another example of the extremes becoming more extreme.

    I do agree with Warfish that such irresponsible semantics do more harm than good for the environmentalists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warfish View Post
    "Ever" is defined as "since accurate widespread record keeping has occured", i.e. ~1850 or so.

    So, 160 years. About the first 75 of which are of very questionable accuracy.

    160

    On a planet that is 4,560,000,000 years old.

    160 vs. 4,560,000,000

    "Ever" takes on a new light in that respect.

    But yes, it does seem unseasonably warm, in my 25 years of living here, this year in D.C. I will certainly grant you that.
    Last winter was one like I've never experienced in my lifetime. Things over-wintered in my garden that have never over-wintered before. And this month is setting up with more unusual temps. DC is going to be in the 70s this weekend.

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    That there sun we got, man I tell ya....it's hot!

    spare us the details about your B. Hussein defeat garden

  7. #7
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    Just ask the Germans, Russians many eastern europeans how cold they were.
    The Jet Stream kept most of the cold air up in Northern Canada and across Europe.

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