U.S. temperature update: 2012 on track to be hottest year on record

Posted at 10:05 AM, Nov 19, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-19 10:05:17-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Thanksgiving week is a reminder that not only are we entering the height of the holiday season, but 2012 is almost in the record books for weather and climate data. Why is this notable? Because so much of this year has been running much warmer than the current-standing hottest year on record for the Contiguous U.S. (which is 1998).

Even the recently cooler-than-average temperatures in Virginia aren’t enough to put a major dint on the national scene. This Climate Central graphic below shows how cold the final weeks of 2012 would have to be to keep this year out of the record books.

Climate Central

The data for this plot is derived from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center. The white line shows that 1998 was the warmest year on record for the continental U.S. (each triangle marks the average temperature to date for a given month). For example, the October triangle shows the year’s average year-to-date temperature through October.

This year is the red line. If temperatures for the Continental U.S. continue to be well above average for the duration of 2012 (that’s the orange prediction line), then this year will easily beat the current 1998 record hottest year. Even if the temperatures are near-normal, we’ll still be unable to overcome the previous warmth this year.

So what could cause a nose-dive in our temperatures the final weeks of 2012? It would probably take an extreme cold snap that lasts for most of the next month over a large chunk of the U.S. The odds of that happening aren’t likely, but it’s certainly possible. We are entering the more active Winter months, after all!

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Explore climate data at NCDC.