December 2015 was warmest, wettest on record for U.S.

Climate experts say to expect more of the same in years ahead

29 states across the eastern half of the U.S. all reported record warm temperatures in December 2015.

By Bob Berwyn

2015 has ended up as the second-warmest year on record across the contiguous United States, with all 48 states recording above average temperatures for the year. Alaska also reported its second-warmest year on record, just behind 2014, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

A record-warm December across the eastern half of the country helped drive the average U.S. temperature for the year to the top of the charts, with 29 states east of the Mississippi reporting record warmth for the month, according to the latest monthly climate update from NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.

December 2015 was also the wettest December on record — the first time in 121 years that December was both warmest and wettest, according to NOAA’s Jake Crouch.And the U.S. can likely expect more of the same in years to come as global temperatures continue to rise under a blanket of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

“The fact is we live in a warming world … we’re seeing more heat and bigger rain events … we’re going to be dealing with more extreme heat events and more extreme rainfall events,” said Deke Arndt, chief of the monitoring branch of the NCEI. “Big rains are getting bigger, especially in the wetter parts of the country,” Arndt said.

Costly extreme weather events of all types have become more frequent in the past two decades, according to federal climate trackers.

As part of the monthly report, NOAA also released information about extreme weather events that cost more than $1 billion dollars. 2015 ended up ranking fourth on the list going back to 1980, with 10 such events, just behind 2008, 2011 and 2012. More information is available in this NOAA report.

2015 was the 19th straight year that the annual average temperature was warmer than the 20th century average. This year’s reading of 54.4 degrees Fahrenheit was 2.4 degrees warmer than the norm for the contiguous U.S. For December, the average temperature across the U.S. was a full 6 degrees Fahrenheit above average.





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