Ecocentric

2012 Was the Hottest Year in U.S. History. And Yes — It’s Climate Change

Last year was the hottest ever for the continental U.S. — and it wasn't even close. Just in case you needed more evidence that the climate really is changing

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Danny Wilcox Frazier / Redux for TIME

A dead branch sits in the cracked earth near the Morse Reservoir, north of Indianapolis, on July 22, 2012

It’s official: 2012 was the hottest year on record in the continental U.S. — and it wasn’t even close. Last year beat the previous record holder — 1998, the summer of which I spent broiling to death as a New York intern — by a full 1ºF (0.56ºC). That’s a landslide, by meteorological standards. That’s Alabama beating Notre Dame to a bloody Irish pulp last night for the college football championship. It was really, really hot last year.

I could cite more statistics to prove the point, but I think this map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does it better than anything else:

As the numbers and colors on that map show, every one of the lower 48 states experienced an annual temperature average last year that was higher than the 20th century average for that state. (The average temperature for the continental U.S. in 2012 was 55.3ºF [12.9ºC], 3.2ºF [1.8ºC] higher than the 20th century average.) Nineteen states — including Texas, New York, Ohio and Oklahoma — had their highest annual average temperatures on record; 26 others had years that ranked in the top-1o hottest ever. Did I say it was hot? It was hot.

And that was just the temperature. Last year was also unusually dry for the continental U.S. The average precipitation total was 26.57 in. (67.49 cm), 2.57 in. (6.53 cm) below average — good for the 15th driest year on record. And that national number hid devastating local extremes, as much of the Midwest was gripped — and remains gripped — in a historic drought. In July, 61% of the country was experiencing some drought conditions — roughly equal to the devastating droughts of the 1950s, if smaller and less extreme than the Dust Bowl droughts of the 1930s. The prolonged dry spells and brutally hot weather set the stage for massive wildfires — 9.2 million acres (3.7 million hectares) of forests were charred in 2012, the third most in the 13-year record.

And while 2012 certainly stood out for its high temperatures, it was hardly unusual. The last decade globally has been the hottest in recorded history. (U.S. temperature records go back to 1895.) And the heat has been above average for some time. Want to know the last time the continental U.S. had a record cold month? December 1983.

It should go without saying that the main driver behind these rising temperatures is man-made climate change, as Angela Anderson of the Union of Concerned Scientists said:

Unfortunately, this won’t be the last time we break records like this. The longer we delay reducing emissions, the more climate change we’re going to lock in. The President has promised to make climate change a priority in his second term, but he needs to turn those words into action. The price tag for dealing with unchecked climate change makes the fiscal cliff look like a crack in the sidewalk.

The problem is that we tend to gawk at these temperature extremes, or at multibillion-dollar storms, then shrug and go back to our daily business. That shouldn’t be an option anymore.

Of course, it could always be worse. Right now in balmy Australia, the average-high national temperature is a cool 40.33º. Except … that’s actually in Celsius. Which means Australia is burning through average high temperatures of 104.6ºF (40.3ºC). Those shrimp will be barbie-ing themselves.

142 comments
Xmodels2
Xmodels2

Global warming is very similar to the high growth that are taking social networking, social network management  http://muchoporno.eu/

info12
info12

Is sad here is you  probably  really believe this. The good news with rising  sea levels almost  half your crazy state won't be around much longer.


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followolero
followolero

Expect our political body to rule that it's way to soon to tell if what we know really is and then spend years arguing that we can't do anything about it anyways so doing nothing is preferred over doing something. Our man made climate change just became the new norm of something 'natural' we simply have to get used to. 


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VayaSimonech
VayaSimonech

Floodings and extreme weather is quite a fact here in Europe nowadays, regardless of politics and using a little common sense, I have serious doubts that this has nothing to do with global warming.

Seo en Málaga

Anniem10000
Anniem10000

Let’s say global warming is a hoax, that many of the scientific community are lying-why we don’t know- that it is a fact that emissions man made or natural do change climates-but never mind all that, even if it is a hoax. Why would it not be to everyone’s benefit to have cleaner air, and explore and begin to create energy from alternate methods than those which ultimately will be depleted?

What is the argument? 

TopGunFitzgerald
TopGunFitzgerald

HOAX Global Cooling aka(Climate Cahnge) changes every second of the day, everywhere all over. Man Made Global Warming is a hoax.

The earth has been cooling the last 15 YEARS!!!!!,   Google  "east anglia hoax"

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh is giving an iPad to a 13-year-old who said he found evidence that human-induced global warming is a hoax through books at a local library.
“It was really easy for me to find this evidence, really easy,” said Alex, who called in to Limbaugh's show from Wilmington, Ind. “I believe the reason that the liberals do not have the evidence is because they do not want the evidence, they do not want to hear that it is wrong.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/christopherbooker/6679082/Climate-change-this-is-the-worst-scientific-scandal-of-our-generation.html  Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation Our hopelessly compromised scientific establishment cannot be allowed to get away with the Climategate whitewash, says Christopher Booker.

MikeAlan
MikeAlan

and how does the author know its due to man made release of gas?   Schmuck

RobertBernal
RobertBernal

We all know about the problem. Now we must instead "argue" about the BEST solution, that is, to IDENTIFY the lowest cost to the safest and most plentiful source of clean energy. It is solar and it's ability to enable the rise of exponential MACHINES that create it as cheap as dirt, is it LFTR (the better and far safer nuclear) or is it a more expensive combination of ALL the renewables?

It is now time for people to learn some basic science and math and all agree on which is the best to "go all out" for!

Shyloh4m
Shyloh4m

I think it is kind of cool how we keep breaking our records. At the same time I am kind of scared because that means global warming is instead of being a myth it is becoming reality. This is very informing about the earth. I did not feel the warmth of the summer last year though and how it broke the record. I also do not believe the president could possibly come up with a climate control program. I think it is quite impossible for there to be climate control.

A lot of the states broke records which is pretty cool. I did not believe global warming before and i got into an argument about it but now that I read this I believe it is happening. If this is not the last time we break a record i wonder how hot the earth is going to be getting eventually in five or ten years. It is really scary how this is happening and the New England region I have noticed have been getting warmer in the winter time.

hew44
hew44

I really enjoy this debate. There is no doubt that climate change is happening, but I really doubt that people are the cause. If you think about natural CO2 emissions which include anything from dead leaves to forest fires and volcanic eruptions (all of which are naturally occuring) then you can see that our cars + factories are just a drop in the bucket. The idea that people could change the climate is rediculous. Its like saying that we can control the weather.

johnpaily1
johnpaily1

We are paying the price for our ignorance of Nature. Common sense tells us that when anything is unilaterally heated it breaks down. The principle and design of earth and her functioning suggest that when environmental heat is increased unilaterally then earths environment unwinds. Earth reacts to this force by winding. We are goverend by two opposing forces - sun that heat up and and earth that cools [rain/snow]. Design of earth tells us that when one part peaks in heat another part is expected peak in coldness. The exponentially increasing heat of the environment by human activity in a quantum world that changes constantly invariably means there would be accelerated climate change, leading to huge destruction by all the forces of nature. The earths winding force invariably means we can expect huge earth quakes. Eventually it would end in huge volcanic eruptions. Watch out for yellow stone. There is hope for humanity in God provided he awakens to the principle and design on which earth functions and develop management of energy of earth’s environment - some one take this message to the world http://www.scribd.com/doc/114273537/Climate-Change-and-Its-Relation-to-Energy

joukot
joukot

Name calling will not help either side. Climate change is a well documented fact, and the more we delay sensible actions the more expensive it will be. It is clear some industries will suffer and they bitterly oppose any actions. The situation is almost identical to the claims by tobacco industries that smoking does not cause lung cancer.

JKBullis
JKBullis

Back in December it seemed we were getting to a higher level of debate, a little less focused on anecdotal reporting and more on real recognition of the underlying problems.  Here it seems we have reverted to name calling.