The National Climatic Data Center released their climate report for the contiguous United States for the month of November 2012. In this report, they mentioned that the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. for November 2012 was 44.1 degrees Fahrenheit (°F), which was 2.1°F above the 20th century average. The above average temperatures makes November 2012 the 20th warmest November on record. If you lived west of the Mississippi River, temperatures were well above average from California, Washington, Iowa, and south into Texas. However, the majority of the eastern United States experienced cooler than average temperatures.
The most stunning information from this report is that even if December brought upon record cold temperatures for the U.S., it would still make 2012 rank as the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States. As of now, the United States as a whole is beating out 1998 as the warmest year ever recorded by approximately 1°F.
For November 2012, major warmth dominated areas west of the Mississippi River with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming having November temperatures among their ten warmest. In the eastern United States, colder air from Canada dominated the region with many areas receiving cooler than average temperatures for the month of November 2012. North Carolina tied 10th coolest November on record, with a statewide-averaged temperature 3.5°F below average. November 2012 ranked as the eighth driest November on record with an average rainfall amount of 1.19 inches, which was 0.93 inches below the long-term average. The Intermountain West, the Plains, the Midwest, and along the entire East Coast experienced drier conditions than normal. Overall, the warmth in November pretty much sealed the deal for 2012 to become the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States.
I believe the chart above depicts exactly how warm 2012 has been for the contiguous United States. As of the end of November, temperatures have been slightly over 3°F above average. 1998, which was the warmest year ever recorded since record keeping began in 1895, had an average temperature for the contiguous U.S. of 54.32°F. 2012 is currently having an average temperature of 55.34°F. We are not only breaking 1998’s record warmth, but we are crushing 1998 by over a degree. The first half of December has already brought upon fairly warm temperatures across a large majority of the United States, and it is nearly impossible for 2012 to drop below 1998 even if the second half of December brought upon record cold temperatures. Is global warming to blame for these temperatures? To give you an idea, seven of the top ten warmest years in the contiguous U.S. have occurred in the past 15 years. There are definitely natural cycles that influence the weather patterns across the globe, but it is hard to argue that global warming did not have a role or influence with the record warmth across the country. Of course, if you ask parts of Asia or Europe about temperatures, they would argue that temperatures were below average. It is important to note that Earth likes to maintain a balance, so if one area is receiving record warmth, another area is bound to experience very cold temperatures.
Bottom line: 2012 will go down as the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous United States since record keeping began in 1895. A warm 2011-2012 winter with extreme warmth in March and July contributed greatly to making 2012 the warmest year ever recorded. Prior to this year, 1998 was the warmest year ever recorded in the contiguous U.S. with the country averaging 54.32°F. Today, the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. in 2012 is 55.34°F. I find this to be truly remarkable, and it shows you how extreme 2012 has been regarding our weather in the United States.
Matt Daniel is Meteorologist for WBRC in Birmingham, Alabama. A self-described "big weather and music geek," Matt has a passion for helping to keep people safe when severe weather strikes and says if you don't have a NOAA Weather Radio ... you should get one.