NOAA: 2012 was hottest on record for Contiguous U.S.

Posted at 5:47 AM, Jan 09, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Richmond had its warmest 2012 on record. And now we know the Lower 48 also had its warmest year on the books. The State of the Climate report released this week from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), shows what much of the country suspected – an unusually warm and severe year.

NCDC states in its report:
“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.”



To rank the severity of the year, NCDC uses a measuring tool called the U.S. Climate Extremes Index. This index provides climatic perspective over a longer period of time so we can compare on year’s events to another’s.

NCDC concluded, based on the CEI:
“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. To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.”


Here are some of the temperature and precipitation extremes in 2012, and you can see that Richmond is pinpointed as having its hottest year on record.


Here are the state-by-state temperature rankings for 2012:


Here are the state-by-state precipitation rankings for 2012:


Virginia ended 2012 with a growing drought area, so our below-normal precipitation rating certainly makes sense.

As for the severity of the year, here are some of the highlights across the nation:


For a full recap of these extreme events, CLICK HERE.
Scroll to the bottom of THIS REPORT for a concise summary of snow, tropical activity and tornadoes in 2012.

We are still waiting for the global temperature and precipitation report from NCDC for 2012 for the full picture. It will be posted HERE when it is completed.

Meteorologist Carrie Rose
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