A Red Hot Globe: Heat Records Shattered For 2012

It’s official: the wildfires that destroyed hundreds of homes and scorched 9.2 million acres, the Great Drought that covered 61.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. in July, making it the largest since the Dust Bowl drought of December 1939, and heat damages causing shriveled crops across the farm belt at an estimated cost of $35 billion, are all connected.

All these weather events in the U.S. this past year add up to one thing: 2012 was the hottest year ever recorded in the U.S.

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the year’s average temperature of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit across the Lower 48 was more than 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century. It was also a full degree higher than the previous record, set in 1998.

A climate scientist explains the significance of that one degree. From The New York Times:

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

Yes, a very big deal. NOAA reported that every state in the contiguous United States saw above-average temperatures in 2012, with 19 of them setting annual records of their own.

Here are a few examples: Lamar, CO, hit 112 degrees on June 27; Greenville, S.C. saw 107 degrees on July 1; and Nashville, TN, hit 109 degrees on June 29.

But it’s not just the U.S. that’s experiencing extreme heat.

Bush fires have been raging across some of the most populous parts of Australia recently, gaining such power that the government has had to change its forecast maps: they’ve added new shades of purple when the heat gets to 130 degrees.

The New York Times explains:

Four months of record-breaking temperatures stretching back to September 2012 have produced what the government says are “catastrophic” fire conditions along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the country, where the majority of Australians live.

Data analyzed on Wednesday by the government Bureau of Meteorology indicated that national heat records had again been set. The average temperature across the country on Tuesday was the highest since statistics began being kept in 1911, at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), exceeding a mark set only the day before. Meteorologists have had to add two new color bands to their forecast maps, extending their range up to 129 degrees Fahrenheit.

You probably remember those wildfires in Russia in 2010? And the Costa del Sol fires in southern Spain last summer? The list goes on.

Global Warming

Many scientists are now convinced that global warming is to blame for this catastrophic rise in temperatures. From The National Geographic:

Recent heat waves that have triggered wildfires, droughts, and heat-related deaths in the United States and around the globe “almost certainly would not have occurred” without global warming—and will become more routine in coming years, NASA climate scientist James Hansen says.

A new study examining six decades of global temperature data concludes that a sharp increase in the frequency of extremely hot summers can only be the result of human-caused global warming. (See an interactive map of global warming effects.)

“We have shown … that the climate dice are now loaded—and that a new category of extreme climate events is occurring with increasing frequency,” study co-author Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said in an email.

What can be done?

As more and more studies emerge showing a direct causal connection between global warming and extreme weather, we can hope that governments will take seriously the task of slowing or even halting climate change. They need to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, collect taxes from oil companies, and make much bigger strides towards clean, sustainable energy.

Individually, we can take small steps like turning off lights and reducing water usage, but it is at the government level that the real changes must happen.

We must demand change, whether by being active Care2 members and supporting organizations that are challenging the big corporations, or by speaking up whenever we can about the importance of this vital issue.

The world is getting hotter. Are we going to sit back and watch it burn up?

Related Care2 Coverage

4 Extreme Weather Events That Led To Extreme Costs In 2012

Scientists Confirm Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Linked

Global Warming “Irreversible” Warns Scientific Body

Photo Credit: screenshot from ABC News

102 comments

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters3 years ago

The temperatures are not as excessive as they were in 2009, but we did barely have a drop of rain since early December 2012 (Victoria, Australia). That makes us very vulnerable in case of strong northerly air streams. But the biggest threat are sick firebugs that purposely light these fires, WHY. Many people have been arrested, why would you want to destroy your country, or your country of adoption. I am a 'New' Australian as I would be called here, never ever receiving the respect as a proper Australian. But many years ago (1960ties) I rode the back of a concrete mixer full of water with a pissy hose, but I ended up in the drink (inside the mixer with a Koala bear that I had rescued). Luckily the driver decided to retreat, otherwise we would have been boiled. The Koala survived, so did I and the driver, never met the driver, who made the decision to retreat in that situation and saved me and that Koala. I do remember the name of that company: Bayview

Gordon Van Gies
Gordon Van Gies3 years ago

Why not count temperature in Celsius ?

Yashee Ramlochun
Past Member 3 years ago

thanks

Jaime  Alexande Alves
Jaime Alves3 years ago

Noted, thanks.!!

Ro H.
Ro H.3 years ago

ty

rene davis
rene davis3 years ago

thank you.

Thomas Brueckner
Thomas Brueckner3 years ago

And now comes the same to Australia.More than 50 degrees in the sun.If we destroy our wonderful planet further,then I think someday Australia will have heat coming up to over 70 degrees.The sun will burn us away from this planet.STOP ALL DESTROYING THE EARTH AND KILLING ALL ANIMALS;TOO!DO THAT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!!

Melania Padilla
Melania Padilla3 years ago

global warming is just beginning!

Mark Donners
Mark Donner3 years ago

Coal and the dirtiest oils like tar sands are responsible for 40% of global warming. All the governments worldwide need to do is shut down those dirty industries to make a major dent in this. But they won't for the sake of selfish short term profit they'd prefer to see the planet die. Overpopulated humanity can and does affect the global environment. When ozone depletion was threatening the earth, a global agreement that banned ozone destroying CFC's corrected the problem. Coral reefs around the world are dying off rapidly because of chemical fertilizer runoff (with ocean acidity from global warming now a dire threat to their future survival as well). But because of the embargos Cuba was forced to resort to organic farming resulting in coral reefs remaing healthy and thriving around Cuban shores, while coral reefs in Florida, and the rest of the Caribbean and other areas are dying or dead. The "capitalist" (translate: greedy) world refuse to follow Cuba's example..it might cut into their selfish profits.