Experts had been speculating since at least last summer that 2012 would be warm enough to break records, but now the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has made it official: In the contiguous US, the average temperature for the year was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a full degree higher than the previous record, set in 1998. In addition, “[n]ineteen states had their warmest year on record and an additional 26 states experienced one of their top ten warmest years on record.” 2012 will also go down as the 15th driest year and the second most extreme year in terms of natural disasters.
What’s the Big Idea?
NOAA scientist Jake Crouch, who participated in a press conference on Tuesday, said that while human-created climate change has played a role, “ it’s hard for us to say at this time what amount of the 2012 temperature was dependent on climate change and what part was dependent on local variability.” For example, a specific atmospheric weather pattern configuration contributed to 2012’s warmer winter, but there’s no guarantee the configuration will carry over into 2013. Still, said Crouch, if climate change continues unabated, “we will expect to see more warmer than average years.”