2012: warmest and 2nd most extreme year in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:01 PM GMT on January 08, 2013

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The contiguous U.S. smashed its record for hottest year on record in 2012, according to NOAA's National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The annual U.S. average temperature was 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and was an astonishing 1.0°F above the previous record, set in 1998. It is extremely rare for an area the size of the U.S. to break an annual average temperature record by such a large margin. Nineteen states, stretching from Utah to Massachusetts, had annual temperatures which were record warm. An additional 26 states had a top-ten warmest year. 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. As wunderground's weather historian Christopher C. Burt reported, of the approximately 5,500 U.S. stations in the NCDC database, 362 recorded their all-time highest temperature during 2012, and none recorded an all-time coldest temperature. This was the most since the infamous Dust Bowl summer of 1936. Approximately 7% of the contiguous U.S. experienced an all-time hottest day during 2012, and every state in the contiguous U.S. 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.

The 2012 weather was also very dry, and the year ranked as the 15th driest year on record for the contiguous U.S. Wyoming and Nebraska had their driest year on record, and eight other states had top-ten driest years. The area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought peaked at 61.8% during July. This was the largest monthly drought footprint since the Dust Bowl year of 1939.


Figure 1. Historical temperature ranking for U.S. states in 2012. Nineteen states had their warmest year on record, and an additional 26 were top-ten warm. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center (NCDC).


Figure 2. Temperatures for the contiguous U.S. in 2012, compared to the previous record warmest and coldest years in U.S. history. The annual U.S. average temperature was 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and was an astonishing 1.0°F above the previous record, set in 1998. It is extremely rare for an area the size of the U.S. to break an annual average temperature record by such a large margin. Image credit: NOAA/NCDC.

Second most extreme year on record
The year 2012 was the second most extreme on record in the contiguous U.S., according to NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI), which tracks the percentage area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% and bottom-10% extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, plus winds from landfalling tropical storms and hurricanes. The CEI was 39% in 2012, approximately double the average of 20%. The only year that was more extreme since CEI record keeping began in 1910 was 1998--the United States' previous warmest year on record. Since Hurricane Sandy was not considered a hurricane when it came ashore, that storm did not contribute to the 2012 CEI. If one plots up the CEI without using the tropical storm and hurricane indicator, 2012 is the most extreme year on record, beating out 1998, 46% to 42%. During 2012, a record 87% of the contiguous U.S. had maximum temperatures that were in the warmest 10% historically, crushing the previous record of 62% set in 1934; 74% of the U.S. of the U.S. had warm minimum temperatures in the top 10% in 2012 (2nd highest on record.) The percentage area of the U.S. experiencing top-10% drought conditions was 34%, which was the 4th greatest since 1910. Only droughts in the Dust Bowl year of 1934, and during 1954 and 1956, were more extreme, averaged over the entire year. Heavy 1-day downpours were near average in 2012, though, with 9% of nation experiencing a top-10% extreme, compared to the average of 10%.


Figure 3. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index (CEI) pegged 2012 as the second most extreme year on record, with 39% of the contiguous U.S. experiencing top-10% extreme weather. This is approximately double the average of 20% (heavy black line.)

Jeff Masters

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603. Patrap
1:01 AM GMT on January 12, 2013
Narelle

Rainbow Animated GIF

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 421 Comments: 127640
602. DocNDswamp
4:12 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Tornado Warning for Central Lafourche Parish issued...

Nasty rotating cell moving rapidly across lower Terrebonne Parish headed into Lafourche...

Member Since: September 21, 2005 Posts: 94 Comments: 4788
601. WunderAlertBot (Admin)
4:10 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
JeffMasters has created a new entry.
600. biff4ugo
4:10 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Wow Keep, it is bizzare how linear those gulf instabilities are at 1015 on your animation, south of Texas and Louisianna (post #562).

None of those strips are induced? impressive. They are sure helping bring moisture up into the south. Too bad the vapor plume isn't curling more over western texas.
Member Since: December 28, 2006 Posts: 114 Comments: 1555
598. Some1Has2BtheRookie
4:00 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting TomballTXPride:


Holy crap. Did we just agree on something, Jim?



A sign of the apocalypse? LOL

Nope! Just a sign that there are common grounds people can stand on.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4737
595. Neapolitan
3:55 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting TomballTXPride:
Completely ruling out the sun as affecting the Earth's climate would be unscientific, wouldn't it??
Certainly--as would be blaming solar variability for the recent decadal warming.
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13467
593. SteveDa1
3:53 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
New York Governor Announces $1 Billion Green Bank And $1.5 Billion Solar Program
By Stephen Lacey on Jan 10, 2013 at 9:53 am


New York City officials are thinking more about climate resiliency in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. But adaptation — making the city more resilient to intensifying extreme weather — is only one part of an effective strategy.

Mitigating climate change through clean energy and other carbon reduction efforts is just as important. And New York Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to understand that.

In his State of the State address yesterday, Cuomo outlined plans for a new billion-dollar “green bank” to leverage private funds for deploying clean energy technologies, announced a 10-year expansion of the state’s solar program by increasing funds $150 million per year, and named a new cleantech czar to oversee the efforts. The cumulative impact could be a massive expansion of renewables and efficiency in New York.

...continued here.
Member Since: October 17, 2006 Posts: 60 Comments: 1297
591. WDEmobmet
3:49 PM GMT on January 10, 2013




I personally like cherry picking!
Member Since: February 3, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 749
590. Neapolitan
3:45 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:


I wan't trying to cherry pick to debunk AGW, I just thought it was interesting...
I didn't think that you were; my apologies if that's how my comment came across to you. No, I was merely noting that the article contained several interesting passages. Which it does...
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13467
589. Some1Has2BtheRookie
3:45 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting Neapolitan:
Interestingly enough, this from that same article: "Raymond Bradley of UMass, who has studied historical records of solar activity imprinted by radioisotopes in tree rings and ice cores, says that regional rainfall seems to be more affected than temperature. 'If there is indeed a solar effect on climate, it is manifested by changes in general circulation rather than in a direct temperature signal.' This fits in with the conclusion of the IPCC and previous NRC reports that solar variability is NOT the cause of global warming over the last 50 years."


Yes. One has to wonder if all of an article is being read before someone posts a link to it and trying to show something different than what the article is saying. In all fairness to ChillinInTheKeys, no personal opinions or claims about the article were made by Chillin'. I had to give Chillin' credit for that.
Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 4737
588. weathermanwannabe
3:43 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Morning Folks........That is quite a strong rain soaked front moving across the Gulf States. Thankfully, it is not fully connected to the jet stream so it looks like more of a rain event as opposed to a significant tornado threat although watches are currently posted. Probably some pretty strong t-storms on tap as it pushes further East...........Almost feels like Summer at the moment along the Gulf Coast in the middle of January.

Link

Member Since: August 8, 2006 Posts: 0 Comments: 8829
587. trHUrrIXC5MMX
3:42 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
yes, we could have Andrea...but in JANUARY?????

I have my record-breaking season feelings for 2013
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14871
586. ChillinInTheKeys
3:33 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting Neapolitan:
Interestingly enough, this from that same article: "Raymond Bradley of UMass, who has studied historical records of solar activity imprinted by radioisotopes in tree rings and ice cores, says that regional rainfall seems to be more affected than temperature. 'If there is indeed a solar effect on climate, it is manifested by changes in general circulation rather than in a direct temperature signal.' This fits in with the conclusion of the IPCC and previous NRC reports that solar variability is NOT the cause of global warming over the last 50 years."


I wan't trying to cherry pick to debunk AGW, I just thought it was interesting, as was this:

Link

"The solar cycle signals are so strong in the Pacific, that Meehl and colleagues have begun to wonder if something in the Pacific climate system is acting to amplify them. "One of the mysteries regarding Earth's climate system ... is how the relatively small fluctuations of the 11-year solar cycle can produce the magnitude of the observed climate signals in the tropical Pacific." Using supercomputer models of climate, they show that not only "top-down" but also "bottom-up" mechanisms involving atmosphere-ocean interactions are required to amplify solar forcing at the surface of the Pacific."
Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 678
585. FunnelVortex
3:31 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting eddye:
ppl lets look at the models and see if they bring cold air 2 fl


I thought this was a weather blog, not a texting session.
Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2873
584. eddye
3:29 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
ppl lets look at the models and see if they bring cold air 2 fl
Member Since: August 12, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 1207
583. Neapolitan
3:24 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting ChillinInTheKeys:
"A new report issued by the National Research Council (NRC), "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate," lays out some of the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our planet."


Link



"Much has been made of the probable connection between the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year deficit of sunspots in the late 17th-early 18th century, and the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters. The mechanism for that regional cooling could have been a drop in the suns EUV output; this is, however, speculative."



Interestingly enough, this from that same article: "Raymond Bradley of UMass, who has studied historical records of solar activity imprinted by radioisotopes in tree rings and ice cores, says that regional rainfall seems to be more affected than temperature. 'If there is indeed a solar effect on climate, it is manifested by changes in general circulation rather than in a direct temperature signal.' This fits in with the conclusion of the IPCC and previous NRC reports that solar variability is NOT the cause of global warming over the last 50 years."
Member Since: November 8, 2009 Posts: 4 Comments: 13467
582. CybrTeddy
3:23 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Sure enough, this appears to be Subtropical Storm Andrea being portrayed by the ECMWF at 96 hours.


GFS has it too, but starts it off as a slightly more hybrid system.


CMC is far less optimistic, but it's interesting to note where this develops: in a similar location to quite a few storms in 2012, just goes to show that the conditions are still quite similar. Odds are, that will change as we progress towards a more La Nina state this year (according to the ENSO models)
Member Since: July 8, 2005 Posts: 259 Comments: 23619
581. Grothar
3:18 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
YES, Skypony, that is a blob.



Member Since: July 17, 2009 Posts: 69 Comments: 25430
580. trHUrrIXC5MMX
3:13 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Chaser!!! Long time no see you Isaac!!
Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14871
579. FunnelVortex
3:09 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
ECMWF showing potential development of Andrea.







Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2873
578. ChillinInTheKeys
3:07 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
"A new report issued by the National Research Council (NRC), "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate," lays out some of the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our planet."


Link



"Much has been made of the probable connection between the Maunder Minimum, a 70-year deficit of sunspots in the late 17th-early 18th century, and the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, during which Europe and North America were subjected to bitterly cold winters. The mechanism for that regional cooling could have been a drop in the suns EUV output; this is, however, speculative."



Member Since: August 18, 2008 Posts: 0 Comments: 678
577. dabirds
3:07 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Rain needs to be more west than it is, but we can use it too. Just hoped more would have been in AR, MO, OK, KS, IA, & NE.

Freezing rain in Duluth in mid Jan? Maybe C IL, but N MN?!

StL backed off a couple degrees for Fri high, now 67 forecast (believe record is 75 for that day though) If Chicago 61, they'll be close.
Member Since: August 23, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 723
576. FunnelVortex
2:57 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
WHOA!!!! Not Andrea so soon?





The ECMWF is showing a spiral convective structure that wraps around the center, I wouldn't be surprised if this is marked as an invest.

Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2873
575. VR46L
2:53 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
error


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574. etxwx
2:40 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Glad to see the midwest may get some much needed relief. All this nice rain here and the arrival of seed catalogs in the mail have turned my thoughts to gardening, so this caught my eye...

Uncommon Ground, a certified green restaurant in Chicago, hosts an organic farm on its rooftop. Zoran Orlic of Zero Studio Photography/Uncommon Ground

How Google Earth Revealed Chicago's Hidden Farms
by Sarah Zielinski NPR January 09, 2013
Excerpt: For years, various local groups in Chicago made lists of community gardens, where they assumed most of the food grown within city limits was coming from. But when researchers from crop scientist Sarah Taylor Lovell's lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign started looking closely at those lists, they found they were surprisingly inaccurate.
More here.
Member Since: September 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1458
573. wxchaser97
2:33 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting TomballTXPride:



Morning, WxChaser.

Some cold shots for you in Michigan appearing more likely later in the forecast run. Check out the 06 GFS, for instance.

Link

I know Firefox needs some add ons to run the loop, but if you can get it going, you may be in luck for some cold and snow.




Good morning Tomball,

I have seen the chances for cold air returning into Michigan and I am happy. Sorry I got to this later since I went to school. My school has Allan Huffman's site blocked, I don't know why, so I can't click the link. Hopefully you have been getting some rain from this system.
Member Since: March 16, 2012 Posts: 127 Comments: 7928
572. RitaEvac
2:31 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Drought map will change drastically next week since it's not accompanying this weeks heavy rains
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
571. trHUrrIXC5MMX
2:29 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
WINTER WEATHER UPDATE
__________________________

Northern States winter storm (GANDOLF)

click map for larger view...

Member Since: April 23, 2011 Posts: 104 Comments: 14871
569. VR46L
2:29 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting TomballTXPride:
YES!!!!!



Looks like the Mid West is going to get in on the action ....
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842
566. RitaEvac
2:26 PM GMT on January 10, 2013




Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
563. FunnelVortex
2:24 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting trHUrrIXC5MMX:
WHOA!!!! Not Andrea so soon?





Woah, this is cool.
Member Since: October 20, 2012 Posts: 7 Comments: 2873
562. KEEPEROFTHEGATE (Mod)
2:24 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 169 Comments: 53296
561. VR46L
2:22 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Thats one heck of a blob moving from the Gulf thru LA


Loop Embedded


Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842
560. AtHomeInTX
2:21 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting etxwx:


Good morning Rita and everyone. We received a total of 2.25 here. It was nice and steady so not a lot of run off, but the ponds came up to normal levels. I'm happy.


Mornin' etx, all. Got 2.94 here. Our neighbors to the east got a bunch. Looks like they're not done with the system yet.

Member Since: August 24, 2010 Posts: 0 Comments: 680
559. RitaEvac
2:19 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting etxwx:


Good morning Rita and everyone. We received a total of 2.25 here. It was nice and steady so not a lot of run off, but the ponds came up to normal levels. I'm happy.


Coming home yesterday the small ponds along the road in my neighborhood were still down 2ft, water line is supposed to be where the grass is, and still see dirt showing below the grassline where water is supposed to be. Still have a ways to go then.
Member Since: July 14, 2008 Posts: 1 Comments: 9628
557. etxwx
2:10 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting RitaEvac:
I received 2.75" for the event


Good morning Rita and everyone. We received a total of 2.25 here. It was nice and steady so not a lot of run off, but the ponds came up to normal levels. I'm happy.
Member Since: September 4, 2011 Posts: 0 Comments: 1458
556. Skyepony (Mod)
2:10 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Click pic for JAVA loop.
Member Since: August 10, 2005 Posts: 161 Comments: 37442
555. LargoFl
2:09 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
ok i give up
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37046
554. LargoFl
2:08 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
real Nasty line of storms with tornados.........
Member Since: August 6, 2011 Posts: 4 Comments: 37046
553. VR46L
2:07 PM GMT on January 10, 2013
Quoting stormchaser43:
i think snowball has better chance in hell than Andrea lol


LOL . I would be inclined to agree with you !
Member Since: March 1, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 6842

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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