The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration confirmed Tuesday what too many Americans already feared: 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded (with the warmest ever spring) in the contiguous United States. The average temperature was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or 3.2 degrees above the 20th century average, and 1.0 degree above 1998, the previous warmest year.
It’s “clearly symptomatic of a changing climate,” said NOAA’s Thomas Karl. “That doesn’t mean every season and every year is going to be breaking all-time records, but you’re going to see this with increasing frequency.”
Every state on the continent had an above-average annual temperature, while 19 had a record warm year and another 26 experienced one of their 10 warmest ever. There were more than 34,000 new record-high temperatures reported this year at weather stations across the country. That compares to 6,664 record lows.
“The heat was remarkable. It was prolonged,” National Climatic Data Center scientist Jake Crouch told the New York Times. “That we beat the record by one degree is quite a big deal.”
Record keeping dates back to 1895 and Tuesday's figures show it was also the driest year in the U.S. since 1988.