It’s official: 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States and the second most extreme in terms of weather events, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) annual “State of the Climate” report released Tuesday.
The average temperature for the entire year was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, a full degree warmer than the previous record warmest year, 1998, and 3.2 degrees above the entire 20th century average.
While one degree may not sound like very much in terms of temperature as humans experience on a day-to-day basis, it is actually an enormous increase in the country’s climate history, as NOAA scientists explained in a press conference on their results Tuesday afternoon.
“The difference between the record coldest year and previous record warmest year was four degrees,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, during the press conference. “So there’s 117 years of data that were encompassed by four degrees of an average temperature, and now the 2012 value is one degree outside of that envelope. So we’re taking quite a large step above what the period of record has shown for the contiguous U.S.”
The planet is warming and the effort now needs to go toward dealing with with that reality, not arguing over whether reality exists.