Report: U.S. Just Experienced Warmest Year on Record

William Lineberry

According to a report released yesterday, the United States has just experienced the warmest half-year on record, as well as the warmest year on record since the recording of temperatures began in 1895. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its “State of the Climate” monthly report yesterday. Extreme weather has swept the U.S. in the past month--from the drought conditions in the Midwest, to the derecho that swept from Illinois to Virginia, to the wildfires in Colorado. The study confirms that these patterns are indeed record-setting--but will they lead Americans to confront a changing climate? According to the study, the period from July 2011 to June 2012 surpassed previous records and went down as the hottest year in the U.S. Nearly 170 heat records were either broken or tied in the U.S. in the second half of June, and the average temperature for the month of June was two degrees higher than the 20th century average. More than half of the country experienced drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Areas affected by the extreme weather are still attempting to recover. In Colorado, two people have been reported dead and 347 homes incinerated in wildfires that began last month. The conditions for the wildfires, the study notes, were made ideal by the hot and dry weather the region has been experiencing. In the mid-Atlantic region that was struck by the derecho, 3.4 million lost power and many continue to go without. At least 27 people have died as a result of the storm in the mid-Atlantic region, some from heat-related causes. In the Midwest corn crops are at risk of drying out due to the drought conditions. Dr. Jeff Masters, a meteorologist and co-founder of the website Weather Underground , told Democracy Now last week that this weather is simply a precursor of what is to come for the U.S. in regards to extreme weather. “You’ve got two things to think about here,” Masters said.  “One is the fact that the atmosphere has natural ups and downs. And this year happens to be one of those years when we’re getting, say, a one-in-20-year type of heat wave, which, you know, happen about once every 20 years. But on top of that, you’ve got this background pattern of global warming. So now you’ve increased the odds of getting these one-in-20-type-year heat waves, and the expectation is, by the end of the century, this kind of heat wave is going to occur once every two years. So, no surprise here: a warming climate, you have a higher probability of getting hot summers like we’re seeing this year. We’re going to be seeing a lot more weather like this, a lot more impacts like we’re seeing from this series of heat waves, fires and storms. This is just the beginning.”                                                                       

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