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It really is hot in here: U.S. has warmest 12 months on record

May 15, 2012|By Matt Pearce
  • Texas State Park police officer Thomas Bigham walks across the cracked lake bed of O.C. Fisher Lake, in San Angelo, Texas, in this August photo. Record average temperatures scorched central Texas, the upper Midwest and much of the Northeast over the last year.
Texas State Park police officer Thomas Bigham walks across the cracked… (Tony Gutierrez / Associated…)

Americans just lived through the hottest 12 months ever recorded, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Tuesday.

The announcement came as NOAA reported that the U.S. also just experienced its third-warmest April on record. 

“These temperatures, when added with the first quarter and previous 11 months, calculate to the warmest year-to-date and 12-month periods since recordkeeping began in 1895,” the agency reported.

NOAA said that for the period from May 2011 to April 2012, the nationally averaged temperature was 55.7 degrees, 2.8 degrees higher than the 20th century average. The national average temperature for April was 55 degrees, 3.6 degrees above average.

To be sure, the higher temperatures haven’t hit every region equally. The Pacific Northwest actually saw cooler-than-average temperatures over the past year, according to NOAA data. Much of California was also cooler than normal; Southern California had an average year.

But record averages for the year scorched central Texas — which saw a horrific drought last year — the upper Midwest, and much of the Northeast.

Globally, hotter temperatures are simply a way a life now, according to the Associated Press.

The last time the globe had a month that averaged below its 20th century normal was February 1985. April makes it 326 months in a row. Nearly half the population of the world has never seen a month that was cooler than normal, according to United Nations data.

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: global warming.

Time magazine's Paul Tullis explains how the math around high temperatures has collided with politics and how some of that is changing.

“Even with a multitude of extreme weather events in recent years — tornadoes in New York City, blizzards in Washington, D.C., 15,000 warm-temperature records shattered across the U.S. in March — each consistent with computer models of a warming world, [respected MIT atmospheric scientist Kerry] Emanuel and many other noted scientists have been unwilling to attribute any one event to global warming,” Tullis wrote last week. “There’s just too much variability in the weather, these experts say, and their dedication to data has helped prop open the door for ‘denialists’ to sow doubt about the reality of our warming world.”

But a new peer-reviewed report by NASA climatologist James E. Hanson, along with a high-profile op-ed in the New York Times, “indicates that the unwillingness to point fingers may be changing,” Tullis says.

NOAA’s latest analysis doesn’t go there, instead just sticking to the numbers.

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national@latimes.com

Twitter.com/mattdpearce

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