Wednesday, January 9, 2013

2012 Warmest Year on Record for the U.S.

Headlines:
Year 2012 was the warmest on record for the U.S.
Year 2012 was the warmest on record for Nebraska 
Year 2012 was the driest on record for Nebraska

The statewide rankings are illustrated in the two maps posted below. There are 118 years of data (1895-2012) in the data archives.

All of the conterminous 48 states had above normal temperatures for 2012, and 19 states had their warmest year on record. A ranking of 118 means 118th coldest out of 118 years or warmest on record.

Nebraska and Wyoming had their driest years on record.

The NCDC Summary is included below the maps.


From NCDC:

2012 was warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S.

Brief summary:  2012 was a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms; however, tornado activity was below average.  2012 marked 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. The average temperature for 2012 was 55.3°F, 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above 1998, the previous warmest year. The average precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. for 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average, making it the 15th driest year on record for the nation. At its peak in July, the drought of 2012 engulfed 61 percent of the nation with the Mountain West, Great Plains, and Midwest experiencing the most intense drought conditions. The dry conditions proved ideal for wildfires in the West, charring 9.2 million acres — the third highest on record.


Detailed summary:  In 2012, the contiguous United States (CONUS) average annual temperature of 55.3°F was 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and was the warmest year in the 1895-2012 period of record for the nation. The 2012 annual temperature was 1.0°F warmer than the previous record warm year of 1998. Since 1895, the CONUS has observed a long-term temperature increase of about 0.13°F per decade. Precipitation averaged across the CONUS in 2012 was 26.57 inches, which is 2.57 inches below the 20th century average. Precipitation totals in 2012 ranked as the 15th driest year on record. Over the 118-year period of record, precipitation across the CONUS has increased at a rate of about 0.16 inch per decade. On a statewide and seasonal level, 2012 was a year of both temperature and precipitation extremes for the United States. Each state in the CONUS had annual temperatures which were above average. Nineteen states, stretching from Utah to Massachusetts, had annual temperatures which were record warm. An additional 26 states had one of their 10 warmest years. Only Georgia (11th warmest year), Oregon (12th warmest), and Washington (30th warmest) had annual temperatures that were not among the ten warmest in their respective period of records. A list of the annual temperatures for each of the lower-48 states is available here. Numerous cities and towns were also record warm during 2012 and a select list of those locations is available here. Each state in the CONUS, except Washington, had at least one location experience its warmest year on record. One notable warmest year record occurred in Central Park, in New York City, which has a period of record dating back 136 years.
Much of the CONUS was drier than average for the year. Below-average precipitation totals stretched from the Intermountain West, through the Great Plains, into the Midwest and Southeast. Nebraska and Wyoming were both record dry in 2012. Nebraska’s annual precipitation total of 13.04 inches was 9.78 inches below average, and Wyoming’s annual precipitation total of 8.08 inches was 5.09 inches below average. New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Georgia, and Delaware had a top ten dry year. The large area of dry conditions in 2012 resulted in a very large footprint of drought conditions, which peaked in July with about 61 percent of the CONUS in moderate-to-exceptional drought, according to the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). The footprint of drought during 2012 roughly equaled the drought of the 1950s which peaked at approximately 60 percent. Wetter-than-average conditions were present for the Northwest, where Washington had its fifth wettest year on record. Washington’s statewide precipitation total of 47.24 inches was 10.40 inches above average. Wetter-than-average conditions were also present across parts of the Gulf Coast and Northeast.

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