By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
To no one’s surprise the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists released their report this week about how 2012 was the hottest year on record for the lower 48 states in the U.S.. We knew that was coming, based on the record of heatwaves and regional anomalies that popped up throughout 2012.
Similarly, we can clearly see climate change barreling down the mountain manifested as melting glaciers, powerful hurricanes and unbearable summers that are becoming the new norm, not to mention the rising carbon levels in the atmosphere which continues to notch upward with sinister regularity and reached 394 parts per million in December.
But I digress.
As you’ll recall, land temperatures soared in parts of the US last spring and into summer. Summer heat pummeled the Midwest and then migrated around to singe some of its more typical victims like Texas and Oklahoma and less frequent targets, like New Hampshire and Vermont. Some states escaped searing summer temperatures, but even there, the warmish spring combined with a ridiculously mild fall meant they netted out pretty hot.
Even some typical cold weather that emerged in early winter wasn’t enough to knock 2012 off its fiery petard.
See if your state was among the roastiest. Check here to see all states.
- Connecticut — The state was 4 degrees above average for the year due to that warm 2011-2012 winter and spring of 2012. The previous record was set in 1998, when the year averaged out at 3.4 degrees above normal (“normal” is based on the 20th Century averages).
- Delaware — Despite its ocean breezes, Delaware ended 2012 at 4.1 degrees above average for the year, ahead of 2011, the previous record, which was 3.4 degrees above normal.
- Kansas — Kansas, hit by the Midwest heatwave, was 3.6 degrees above normal. The last time it even came close to being that warm was during the Dust Bowl, when the record shows it was 3.3 degrees above normal in 1934.
- Massachusetts — Another state unaccustomed to being in the news for hot spells, Massachusetts was 3.4 degrees above normal, beating the previous record of 2.9 degrees set in 1949.
- Missouri — The show-me state was shown some heat in 2012, averaging 3.9 degrees above the 20th Century average and beating the previous record, set in 1938, but a full degree.
- Nebraska — The state was 3.8 degrees above normal, edging out the previous record of 3.7 degrees set in 1934.
- New Hampshire hit the bell at an even 4.0 degrees above normal in 2012, passing the previous record of 3.4 set in 1998, another notoriously hot year in much of the nation.
- New Jersey, which incurred a vicious swipe by Hurricane Sandy that many attribute to stronger hurricanes fueled by warming ocean waters, also suffered through its hottest year on record in 2012. Chris Christie’s state was 3.7 degrees above normal.
- New Mexico averaged out at 3.8 degrees above normal in 2012, surpassing the previous record of 3.6 degrees set in 1998, and demonstrating that climate change claimed a broad reach last year.
- Ohio — The Buckeye state didn’t buck the trend. It registered 3.4 degrees above normal for 2012, tying the record for hottest year ever with 1998.
- Oklahoma where the wind comes whipping down the plains and some prominent politicians named Jim Imhofe deny climate change exists, was 3.4 degrees above normal, a condition that primed the land for wildfires, which also plagued the state in 2012. Oklahoma’s previous record was 3.2 set in 1954.
- Rhode Island, like New Hampshire, was an even 4 degrees above normal, jumping past the previous high average set in 1999. At least coastal breezes likely made the heat more endurable than in some inland spots.
- South Dakota was the hottest of the hot, recording an annual average that was 4.4 degrees above normal. That beat the 1931 and 1934 records (of 4.2 and 3.8 above average) remembered in the history books as years farmers were slammed with bad weather and economics, driving many to bankruptcy.
- Texas — The state that likes everything bigger didn’t outdo South Dakota temperature-wise, but it was 2.4 degrees above normal for the year, enough to tie for the number 1 hottest year with 1921. Two recent sizzlers, 2011 and 1998, tied for second place in the Lone Star state at 2.1 degrees above normal.
- Vermont, a place associated with skiing and mild temperatures, probably didn’t want this prize: It was 3.9 degrees above normal for the year, surpassing the previous top hottie, 1953, which was 3.5 degrees above normal.
- Wyoming, another less-populated state associated with tourism, also popped the thermometer at 4.1 degrees above normal in 2012, knocking out 1934’s record of 3.5 degrees above normal.
Also worth noting: For many more states 2012 was among the top 10 hottest years, part of a trend of warming that climate scientists say portends more warming (aka climate change) that could worsen droughts and storms and will continue to rearrange the landscape in predictable and unpredictable ways.
The warming trend can be seen by reviewing the top ten hottest years for US states on the NOAA web report. For many states, the top ten hottest years include several years in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 2000s. Massachusetts, for instance, counts 1990, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2010 in its top 10 hottest years (which includes 13 years total because four are tied for 10th place).
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