Climate: It’s official — 2012 ranks as warmest-ever for lower 48

Most states reported temps well above average in 2012.

December edges into the top 10

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — December’s average temperature across the contiguous 48 states was 3.4 degrees above the 20th century average, making it the 10th-warmest December on record, according to the National Climatic Data Center’s monthly report.

For the year, the NCDC reported that the contiguous states experienced the warmest year on record, dating back to 1895, with an average annual temperature of 55.3 degrees, 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average. the 2012 reading beat the previous 1998 record by 1 degree.Since 1895, the U.S. has seen average temperatures increase by about 0.13 degrees per decade.

For December,  the warmest readings came from the eastern U.S. where 20 states reported monthly temps in the top 10. The northern plans and the West were near average, while the Pacific Northwest reported above-average temperatures.

The NCDC described 2012 as a year of extremes for the continental U.S. Every state reported annual temperatures above average and 19 states, ranging from Utah to Massachusetts, reported all-time record warmth.

Many individual cities also reported record warmth. A full list of city temps is available at this NCDC web page, and the list of annual temperatures for all of the contiguous 48 states in online here.

Most of the country was drier than average in 2012, reflected by the worst drought in the central part of the country since the 1950s.

Looking back, the winter of 2012 (Dec. 2011 – March 2012) was the fourth-warmest on record despite lingering La Niña conditions in the Pacific, with the third-smallest seasonal snowpack on record.

The spring season brought record warmth to nearly the entire country, with the warmest March, the fourth-warmest April and the second-warmest May on record.

Autumn (Sept. – Nov.) brought a return to somewhat more average readings, but the season still ranked as the 22d-warmest on record, with warm conditions in the West, but cooler than average readings along the Eastern Seaboard.

Information compiled from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: National Overview for Annual 2012, published online December 2012, retrieved on January 8, 2013 from


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