Temperatures in the continental United States in 2012 were the hottest since record keeping began more than a century ago, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced in January. Seven of the 10 warmest years on record have been since 1990.
The average temperature in 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.2 degrees above the 20th-century average and 1 degree above the previous record set in 1998. Every state in the lower 48 states reported above average temperatures and 19 reported record breakers. In addition, 26 states reported last year was one of their hottest years on record.
According to the Los Angeles Times, NOAA’s soon-to-be-released report on global temperatures is expected to indicate that 2012 was the eighth-warmest year on record worldwide.
While the temperature rose, precipitation fell. NOAA reported that the average precipitation total for the contiguous United States in 2012 was 26.57 inches, 2.57 inches below average. It ranked as the 15th driest year on record for the country. The tenacious drought that has plagued the Great Plains, as well as parts of the South and West, has shriveled crops and stunted agricultural production.
According to the Huffington Post, “Deutsche Bank Securities has predicted the drought will be responsible for a 0.5% to 1% drop in U.S. gross domestic product this year, a significant drop considering the relatively slow pace of growth throughout the year.”
“The drought got a lot of attention this summer when it was having impacts on agriculture,” Jake Crouch, a climate scientist from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, told NBC News. More than 60% of the country still is in drought. And if things don’t change, the drought is going to continue to be a big story in 2013.”
And as if all that weren’t enough, last year was the second worst on record for severe weather, such as hurricanes, according to the U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which evaluates extremes in the nation’s temperature and precipitation. The index measured twice as many extreme events in 2012 than the national average—second only to 1998. Weather-related disasters, including Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Isaac and tornadoes in the Great Plains, Texas, the Ohio Valley and the South, cost hundreds of lives and billions of dollars.
“We expect to see a continued trend of big heat events, we expect to see big rain events, and with slightly less confidence, we expect to see continued trend in drought,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the National Climatic Data Center.