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2012 Hottest on Record

Preliminary data suggested 2012 would be the hottest year on record, given the extreme weather which plagued the U.S. for large periods at a time, and now that the final sets of data have been reviewed, it is official: 2012 was the hottest year on record for the contiguous states.

The extreme weather certainly had an effect: the surreal March heat wave, a severe drought in the Corn Belt, and Hurricane Sandy, which devastated the Middle Atlantic States. Simply stated, it was the perfect situation to become the hottest year on record.

How hot was it?

The average was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit, a full degree higher than the previous record, set in 1998. The temperature differences between years are usually measured in fractions of a degree, so a difference of a full degree is not only impressive from a data standpoint, but also unsettling and discomforting from a living specimen perspective.

Scientists said that natural variability, i.e. what is to be naturally expected, almost certainly played a role in the extreme heat and drought in 2012, but many expressed doubt that such a striking new record would have been set without the backdrop of climate change caused by the human release of greenhouse gases.

Further, scientists warned that 2012 was probably just a taste of things to come, as continuing warming makes heat extremes more likely.

So what does this mean for policy and action in the coming years, both domestically and foreign?

Thanks to the La Niña weather pattern in 2012, which tends to cool the overall global climate, scientists expect 2012 to be the world’s eighth- or ninth-warmest year on record. Domestically the hottest year on record, globally, not so bad.

Policy will have to reflect science and data, not ideology, which is seemingly impossible in contemporary governance. It is no longer an option to be patient about this—action is needed now. The world does not care about the petty squabbles in Washington, for which it has become infamous—it is warming now, and doesn’t appear to be stopping.

Now is the time to act, for we as a country, and world, are quickly running out of time before it is too late.

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