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Posted at 02:06 PM ET, 01/03/2013

2012’s surreal record warmth in the U.S.


2012 temperatures in the U.S. compared to normal. The only large region where temperatures were slightly cooler than normal was the Pacific Northwest. (High Plains Regional Climate Center)

We await the inevitable “official” announcement from NOAA that 2012 was the warmest year on record in the Lower 48, by a huge margin. Recall, in mid-December Climate Central calculated there was 99.99999999 percent chance this feat would be achieved.

In the mean time, it’s amazing to watch related records stream in at national, regional and local scales.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping record I’ve encountered was posted by wunderground historian Christopher Burton: there were 362 all-time record highs logged in the U.S. in 2012 but ZERO all-time record lows. That is an incredible disparity which - to me- seems like it would be impossible to accomplish without a marked human influence on climate BOTH from urbanization around weather stations and elevated greenhouse gas concentrations.

Of course, naturally varying weather patterns played the major role in the distribution of temperatures, but it’s doubtful - in my opinion - the warmth would’ve been so intense without a helping hand from manmade causes.

The disparity in monthly records highs to record lows is also massively lopsided: 2,559 to 194, Burton reports.

Let’s review some other record reports I’ve encountered:

National scale

* John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville reports (via Roy Spencer) satellite-derived measurements of near-surface (or lower tropospheric) temperatures for both the contiguous and continental U.S. were warmest on record (dating back to 1979).

“For the U.S., 2012 started with one of the three warmest Januaries in the 34-year record, saw a record-setting March heat wave, and stayed warm enough for the rest of the year to set a record,” Christy writes.

The fact that satellite data show 2012 was record-setting is independent validation of NOAA thermometer data.

Regional and local scales

* The blog Capital Climate reports it was the warmest year on record in the Mid-Atlantic. Among the cities in the region with their warmest year? Wilmington, Trenton, Reading (tie for warmest), Philadelphia, Allentown, Mt. Pocono, Roanoke and Richmond. And as we reported, Washington, DC. had its warmest year on record by a landslide. In addition to these cities, (at least) the states of New Jersey. and Delaware were warmest on record.


(National Weather Service)

* Warmth in New England was record-setting: Connecticut meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan blogs Hartford had its warmest year on record. New England meteorologist Matt Noyes adds Boston, Worcester, and Burlington also had their warmest years.

* The National Weather Service Forecast Office out of Milwaukee/Sullivan notes Milwaukee (tie) and Madison were warmest on record.

* A quick Google search reveals many media reports of additional cities logging their warmest years (and I’m omitting many which had their second warmest). Here’s a rundown:

Chicago

Tuscon (tie)

Memphis

Knoxville (tie)

Grand Rapids

Cleveland

Columbus

Detroit

Houston

Galveston

New York City Central Park

Billings

Dallas (tie)

Albany

Louisville

Minneapolis-St. Paul (tie)

This list is incomplete but gives a sense of the geographic diversity. NOAA will have a larger, more comprehensive list when it publishes its year-in-review.

Additional information about Washington, D.C.’s warmest year

The National Weather Service (NWS) in Sterling, Va. adds some additional detail to our report that Washington, D.C. had its warmest year on record:

2012 WAS THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD FOR WASHINGTON DC WITH AN ANNUAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE OF 61.5 DEGREES. THE PREVIOUS WARMEST ANNUAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE ON RECORD WAS 60.2 DEGREES IN 1991. THE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE FOR 2012 WAS 3.3 DEGREES ABOVE THE 1981-2010 NORMAL AND WOULD BE COMPARABLE TO THE NORMAL ANNUAL TEMPERATURE OF ATLANTA...OKLAHOMA CITY AND SAN JOSE...JUST TO NAME A FEW LOCATIONS.


Not only did Reagan National Airport - where D.C.’s measurements are taken - record its warmest year, but also Dulles Airport to its west according to the NWS.

Stay tuned for our full report on 2012 U.S. temperatures next week.

By  |  02:06 PM ET, 01/03/2013

Categories:  Latest, Climate Change, U.S. Weather

 
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