February 2013

Volume 22, Number 2

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Hottest Year on Record (Again)

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Temperatures for most of 2012 were above average in most of the U.S. This map shows the largest departures from average in darker shades.

Image: NOAA

By Erin Weaver

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has confirmed that 2012 was the hottest year in the contiguous U.S. since recordkeeping began in 1895. The warmest spring on record and the second-warmest summer combined with higher-than-average temperatures over the rest of the year to clock an overall average of 55.3°F nationwide—exceeding the previous record of just 14 years earlier by 1°F. Nineteen individual states, and cities from Boston to Denver, set records for their warmest year. The worst drought in decades affected 39% of the country, contributing to wildfires that burned 9.2 million acres in the third-worst year of wildfires on record.

In the southern hemisphere, meanwhile, Australia’s summer is setting records as well. With temperatures routinely averaging above 100°F, the country’s Bureau of Meteorology has added two new colors to extend the range of its forecasting maps, and motorists have reported gasoline vaporizing while being pumped into gas tanks.

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January 28, 2013