“There is still time to act and avoid a worsening climate, but we are wasting precious time.”
Over the last few months, I’ve been in the routine of blogging about the previous month’s weather in the continental US. The National Climatic Data Center (a subsidiary body of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) regularly reports on the State of the Climate, and most months this year have been rather alarming. So how did August 2012 do?
Well, you’ll be pleased to know it was cooler than it was earlier in the summer. Whereas July 2012 was the hottest ever recorded—ever!—August was relatively cooler: only 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term average, making it only the 16th hottest August on record. However, with July’s record breaker, and June also being warmer than average, the months of June to August have made for the third hottest ever, only 0.1 degree Fahrenheit behind 2011, and 0.2 degrees behind 1936.
Of course, temperature is only one component of weather, and I’ve previously reported on how the severe this year’s drought in the US has been, with more than half the country officially declared disaster areas by the US Department of Agriculture. It was drier than average through the Pacific northwest, the Rockies, and extending into the upper Midwest. Nebraska, Wyoming and Washington state each had their driest August ever, and Colorado, Idaho and Oregon had dry Augusts that made their Top Ten lists.
Where it’s hot and dry, fires are sure to follow. All told, 3.6 million acres burned across the US last month, mostly in the west. That’s almost twice the average for the month of August.
Looking to 2012 as a whole so far, the months from January to August are still on track to be the hottest year ever recorded for the US. The first eight months of this year have been a full four degrees Fahrenheit above the twentieth century average, and one degree above the hottest eight months previously recorded, which was in 2006.
In fact, taking everything into account so far for the year, 2012 looks to be the year from hell for the lower 48. NOAA also keeps track of a Climate Extremes Index, keeping a record of top ten percentages in the cate temperature, drought and precipitation. They’ve been keeping that index since 1910, so there’s more than a century’s worth of data with which to compare.
So how did 2012 do so far? It has had the most extremes of any year since the Climate Extremes Index began keeping record, more than double the average over the last hundred years.
Records throughout the US and all over the world have been pretty telling:
- hottest July on record
- hottest spring on record
- more than sixty percent of the continental US suffering from drought, as are parts of eastern Europe and India
- Arctic sea ice cover is at a record low
- Greenland ice sheet shows what the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center calls “extraordinary high melting”
- global land temperatures for May and June were the hottest since records began in the 19th century
There’s no doubt about it: global warming is real, and I think it’s tougher than ever for folks to deny that. Of course, there’s a large group who look to natural mechanisms to explain all of these findings, but that’s a different hurdle to overcome. At least this should be one thing we can all agree on: we’re beginning to experience Hell on Earth.