Warmest Year on Record: 2012

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2012 was the warmest year ever recorded for many of the major climate monitoring sites in the Northeast. For example, Syracuse, NY, broke their old record for the warmest year at that site, set in 1931, by 1.1°F. The city of Burlington, VT, had the greatest departure above their old record, set in 1998, by 1.6°F. Average annual temperatures can be calculated in different ways, by averaging daily averages or by averaging monthly averages. Preliminary figures indicate that eight out of twelve states in the Northeast broke their record for the warmest year in 2012, which was the warmest year on record for the Northeast as a whole.

2012 was also the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The average annual temperature for the lower 48 states in 2012 was 55.3°F, which was 1°F higher than the previous record set in 1998. While a single degree difference might not seem like much, it is an unusually large margin, since annual temperature records typically differ by just tenths of a degree Fahrenheit year-to-year. 2012 was also the 15th driest year on record for the nation. The average precipitation total for the contiguous US was just 26.57 inches, or 2.57 inches below average.

The high temperatures, leading to an increase in evaporation, coupled with less rainfall, meant that about 80% of agricultural land experienced drought in 2012, more extensive than any since the 1950s. All of the data confirms that our climate is warming, and this trend will continue. As the latest draft National Climate Assessment (NCA) Report notes, U.S. temperatures will continue to rise, with the next few decades projected to see another 2°F to 4°F of warming in most areas.

For more information on weather and climate change trends in the Northeastern United States, see the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.

Category: What's With the Weather

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