2012: The Warmest Year on Record

Posted at 4:35 PM, Jan 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-09 16:38:07-05

2012 was a warm year for a lot of us here in the United States. In fact, according to data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2012 was the warmest year on record for the lower 48 states. The year consisted of a record warm spring, the second warmest summer, and the fourth warmest winter in history. Overall, the average temperature for the U.S. in 2012 was 55.3 F, just one degree above 1998, which was the previous warmest year.


More than 400 U.S. cities experienced some of the warmest temperature readings they’ve ever had in 2012, including Norfolk. The average annual temperature for 2012 in Norfolk was 62.75 F, making it the warmest year on record for the city. The second warmest year had been 1990 when the average annual temperature as 62.73 F. The normal annual temperature is 60.2 F based on data from 1981 to 2010.

If you added up all the average highs and lows in 2012 just for Virginia and North Carolina, the results would still show 2012 as a warm year but not the warmest.  In fact, as a whole, 2012 was the 3rd warmest year on record. Last year was the 6th warmest year for North Carolina.

So why was 2012 so warm?  Well, it depends on who you ask.  Some experts say that it’s the result of global climate change while others say it’s because of a change or shift in the jet stream, keeping most of the cooler air to the north.  Others also say that there are simply more sites that report the weather on a daily basis now compared to the early days of recording weather data in the 1800s.

NOAA also says that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the U.S. when it comes to drought, wildfires, and hurricanes. Tornado activity, however, was below average last year.

Source: NOAA, National Climate Data Center (NCDC)