Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

It's Official: 2012 Set a Record for Heat in U.S. ; New Mark Surpasses Previous High, from '98, by Full Degree Fahrenheit

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

It's Official: 2012 Set a Record for Heat in U.S. ; New Mark Surpasses Previous High, from '98, by Full Degree Fahrenheit

Article excerpt

The numbers are in: 2012, the year of blistering heat, a historic drought and a huge storm, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.

The numbers are in: 2012, the year of a blistering March heat wave, a historic drought in the corn belt and a huge storm that caused broad devastation in mid-Atlantic states, turns out to have been the hottest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.

How hot was it? The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, but last year blew away the previous record, set in 1998, by a full degree Fahrenheit, or .55 degrees Celsius.

If that does not sound so impressive, consider that more than 34,008 daily high records were set at weather stations across the country, compared with only 6,664 record lows, according to a count maintained by the Weather Channel meteorologist Guy Walton, using federal temperature records.

That ratio, which was roughly in balance as recently as the 1970s, has been out of whack for decades as the country has warmed, but never by as much as it was last year.

"The heat was remarkable," said Jake Crouch, a scientist with the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina, which released the official climate compilation on Tuesday. "It was prolonged. That we beat the record by one degree is quite a big deal."

Scientists said that natural variability almost certainly played a role in last year's extreme heat and drought. But many of them expressed doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

Even so, the nation's 2012 record is not expected to translate into a global temperature record when figures are released in coming weeks. The year featured a La Nina weather pattern, which tends to cool the global climate over all, and scientists expect it to be the world's eighth or ninth warmest year on record.

Assuming that prediction holds up, it will mean that the 10 warmest years on record all fell within the past 15 years, a measure of how much the planet has warmed. …

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