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2012 Spring Season was the Warmest in Over 100 Years

NOAA graphic | Photo: Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
NOAA graphic | Photo: Courtesy of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This past spring season (March to May) was the warmest across the contiguous U.S. since 1910, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced today.

"The entire United States, from the Rockies east, was warmer than normal for the first five months of 2012," said Deke Arndt, chief of climate monitoring for NOAA.

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Here are some highlights from the NOAA report about the data:

  • 57.1°F was the average temperature, 5.2°F above the long-term average.
  • "With the warmest March, third warmest April and second warmest May, spring 2012 marked the largest temperature departure from average of any season on record for the contiguous United States," according to the report.
  • National precipitation at 7.47 inches was 0.24 inches below average.
  • Climate extremes, measured by an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes, more than doubled the average for the season. "Extremes in warm daytime temperatures (81 percent) and warm nighttime temperatures (72 percent) covered large areas of the nation, contributing to record highs," stated the report.

"This warmth is an example of what we would expect to see more often in a warming world," said Arndt. "Understanding that the United States and the rest of the planet are warming along with preparing for eventualities like this is one way our nation can become climate smart."

In 2010 NOAA released data showing that the year had been the hottest on record.

Critics argue that temperatures have cycled for the last 100-plus years with warming and cooling periods, and suggest the NOAA's records are deceptive. Some, including meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo, who co-founded The Weather Channel, has criticized NOAA and NASA, accusing the organizations of cherry-picking locations of weather observation stations to yield data that supports climate change arguments.

However, climate change scientists say the global temperature data has nothing to do with government organizations. According to Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeler with NASA, critics often don't understand where the global temperature numbers come from.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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