Warmest Year for the US since 1895

Every January the President of the United States provides a Sate of the Union address, as mandated by the Constitution (Article 2, Section 3, although the actual document only states that it must be done “from time to time.”)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) updates us better than that when it comes to climate. They provide a State of the Climate report every month. It provides a lot of telling information, much of which is concerning to those who believe our human activities are playing a part in global warming.

For example, last month was the third warmest April recorded, about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above average. This came after the warmest March ever documented since accurate records have been kept, dating back to 1895. In March 2012, 15,000 temperature records across the US were broken. In fact, the first four months of this year were 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. All told, the last 12 months made for the warmest year the US has ever recorded, about 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

And just wait because the record probably won’t last long; it’s highly possible that it will be broken at the end of this month. The twelve months from June 2011 to May 2012 will likely be hotter than May 2011 to April 2012 because May 2011 was cooler than average, bringing down the year’s average a little bit. So even if we have normal rather than above-average temperatures this month, a new record is likely. As Jake Crouch, lead researcher of the NOAA and author of the State of the Climate report stated in an interview with MSNBC, “Depending on how May 2012 turns out, the June 2011-May 2012 period will likely surpass the 12-month record that we just broke.”

Of course, the problem isn’t just warmer temperatures. Climate is much more than that. One obvious problem is the change in precipitation that results from climate change. Some areas get more precipitation leading to possible floods, and others get less causing droughts. As of May 1st, 38.2 percent of the contiguous US was experiencing drought conditions, up 6.3 percent compared with the same time last year.

The NOAA is careful to avoid making conclusions about the cause of these observations. It doesn’t claim these findings are all due to manmade contributions, since there are many factors that play a part in climate change. Of course, of the many variables that contribute to global warming, the one that’s been consistently climbing is the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, currently at 392 parts per million (ppm) and continuing to rise at about 2 ppm per year. Since there don’t seem to be any simple explanations for that observation other than the fact that our species adds 30 billion tons of the stuff to the atmosphere every year, I’m happy to say what the NOAA won’t: this is our fault folks, and we’d better get used to it because this is the new normal.

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