The average temperature in 2012 was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit—3.2 degrees hotter than the 20th-century average and 1 degree above the previous record set in 1998, the NOAA said in a report Tuesday.
Overall, last year’s spring was the warmest on record, winter was the fourth warmest, summer was the second warmest, and fall was warmer than average, the report said.
“An estimated 99.1 million people—nearly one-third of the nation’s population—experienced 10 or more days of summer temperatures greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit,” according to the NOAA. “Every state in the contiguous United States had an above-average annual temperature for 2012. Nineteen states had a record-warm year, and an additional 26 states had one of their 10 warmest.”
Throughout fall and December, the temperatures were warmer than average but were not as hot as the previous three seasons, said the report.
“Although the last four months of 2012 did not bring the same unusual warmth as the first 8 months of the year, the September through December temperatures were warm enough for 2012 to remain the United States’ record-warmest year by a wide margin,” the NOAA said.
Furthermore, the winter snowfall in the 48 lower states was the third smallest on record. Meanwhile, snowpack across the Southern and Central Rocky Mountains was less than half of normal levels.
“In combination with the lack of winter snow and lingering dryness from 2011, the record-warm spring laid the foundation for the great drought of 2012,” the agency said.
Last year was the 15th driest on record. The average precipitation total for the contiguous United States was 26.57 inches—2.57 inches below average.
The report added that last year was the second worst for “extreme” weather patterns including hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and floods, although tornado activity was less than usual. At one point last year, the drought affected more than 60 percent of the country, and it will likely lead to higher food prices in the United States and around the world in 2013.
“To date, 2012 has seen 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include [storms] Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley,” the NOAA said.
The NOAA’s findings will likely spark further debate about whether or not climate change was responsible for the spike in temperatures.
“These records do not occur like this in an unchanging climate,” Kevin Trenberth, who heads climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., told The Associated Press. “And they are costing many billions of dollars.”
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 20 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.