U.S. Sees Hottest 12 Months And Hottest Half Year On Record

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its chart-filled “State of the Climate Global Analysis” for June 2012:

The big stories are the heat and drought:

How off-the-charts has the last year been? NOAA has done the math:

  • During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

As meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters puts it, “Thus, we should only see one more 13-month period so warm between now and 124,652 AD–assuming the climate is staying the same as it did during the past 118 years. These are ridiculously long odds, and it is highly unlikely that the extremity of the heat during the past 13 months could have occurred without a warming climate.”

UPDATE: NOAA did the math inappropriately in multiple respects. Obviously, individual months in the US temperature record are correlated (weather persists, though not as much as you might think). So simply taking 1/3 (one third) to the 13th power as NOAA did is not the right way to do the calculation. Doing the calculation correctly isn’t easy, but Lucia of The Blackboard says “I am getting a probability less than 1 in 100,000.” That said, it is also wrong for NOAA to do the calculation assuming each of the last 13 months was merely in the top one third — when 6 of the last 13 months were in the top 4% warmest months (you can find all the rankings here by stepping through month by month). Most likely the probability of this particular heat wave in an alternative universe America where the climate that isn’t warming is less than 1 in 1.6 million, but it is a very tricky calculation to do. I have emailed Tom Karl, director of the National Climactic Data Center, and will post any change they make. Masters has added a correction here.

Like a baseball player on steroids, our atmosphere has been “juiced” with human emissions of greenhouse gases, which means we are going to be breaking heat records at an “unnatural” pace for a long, long time.  Climatologist Richard Alley offers a different analogy in a column today:

Humans have made some extreme weather events more likely, and they are happening.

Just as a back-street gambler might beat someone in an honest game but has a better chance with loaded dice, Nature might have caused this summer’s weather but we gave it a boost. More importantly, under business as usual, today’s children may one day think of this summer as cool.

How extreme has the weather been in 2012?

  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record-large 44 percent during the January-June period, over twice the average value. Extremes in warm daytime temperatures (83 percent) and warm nighttime temperatures (70 percent) covered large areas of the nation, contributing to the record high value.

Here’s the chart:

Unfortunately, NOAA offers little near-term hope for alleviating the drought. Here’s their forecast through the end of September:

This does not bode well for US crops.

And since it tends to be hotter in a widespread drought, there’s every reason to believe the above average warmth will continue. Mother Nature is just getting warmed up!

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36 Responses to U.S. Sees Hottest 12 Months And Hottest Half Year On Record

  1. Corn prices surge as USDA reports 18 states hurt by drought

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture report said 30% of the corn in the 18 states that produce most of the nation’s crop is now considered in poor or very poor condition. A week ago, it was 22%.

  2. Rob Jones says:

    The drought will end. El-nino conditions are manifesting right now and with that will come cooler weather for the US. People will shrug and say what global warming, its cool now, and all will be forgotten.
    Australia had a record drought with record fires and many dead, people were becoming more concerned about global warming, but then the el-nino broke and a la-nina set in. With it came cooler weather and lots of rain and flooding. No one connected the dots with record floods and global warming, because it was cooler, in fact almost record breaking coolness. As el-nino sets in here and we set new record droughts and high temperatures, some people will mention climate change and others (those who vote conservative) will be quick to point out the cool summer that we have just had. Nothing will change until food becomes scarce and by then we will truly be entering the first phase of humanities slow fall.

  3. Leif says:

    A 1 in 1.6 million event and Shell wants to prepare for a one in 10 year storm in exploiting the pristine Arctic and arguing against the Coast Guard 1 in 100 year requirement as being too excessive. Get real Shell… In reality Shell should just pack up and leave. Invest in the Green Awakening Economy and do good for Humanity Shell. You owe us big time as is.

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    “… staggering for its irresponsibility…”

    In his recent article, ‘The Silence on Global Warming’ (published on consortiumnews and republished today on, Robert Parry includes quite a few quotes from John Kerry’s recent “major” speech on the Senate floor on June 19.

    Here are two of them:

    “…the silence that has enveloped a once robust debate is staggering for its irresponsibility.”

    “What’s worse, we’ve stood by and let it all happen — we’ve treated falsehood with complacence and allowed a conspiracy of silence on climate change to infiltrate our politics.”

    Again, that’s from John Kerry’s speech in the Senate.

    And he hits the nail on the head.

    But realize (of course), the most prominent enabler of this silence, by far, is President Obama himself. And we are enabling him to enable it!

    CAP is how many blocks from the White House? — and is full of folks (and connected to others) who were in high places in previous Democratic administrations and in the Democratic party. So what is up? Why are we not insisting at the top of our lungs (and walking across town) that Obama break the silence in politics regarding climate change and inject the issue, energetically, into the current public and political discussions? Why??

    Indeed, is it the AAAS, the NAS, or both, that are (along with CAP) located in Washington, just blocks from the WH?

    When John Kerry says that the silence is “staggering for its irresponsibility”, and that “we’ve stood by and let it all happen”, he is talking about the President and also us! He is talking not only about senators and Republicans — we already know they’re not gonna bring it up — but he’s ultimately talking about President Obama, CAP, CP, the MSNBC folks, the Democratic talking heads and pundits, the scientific academies, Bill and, the environmental groups, me and you — ALL OF US — all of us who are not incessantly insisting that President Obama end the silence and replace it with whatever is necessary.

    “staggering for its irresponsibility” is an understatement! And the most irresponsible people (specifically regarding the present silence) at this particular point are not those Republicans or oil execs who don’t want to talk about climate change, never wanted to talk about it, never said they would, will never bring it up unless someone else does, and are wishing the topic would just go away. Instead, they are the people with public platforms and megaphones, or with connections to the White House, who COULD bring public and personal pressure on the White House to inject climate change into the present public dialogue, including the media. The President is the single person who can best break the silence that Kerry condemns, and people here (CP, CAP, and all the others listed above) are in the best positions to catalyze him to do so.



  5. rjs says:

    a One-In-1.6-Million-Event is a bit of nonsense, really…weather tends towards the trend…warm dry winters beget hot dry summers…

  6. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It certainly will not be over a million years to the next record smashing extreme hot weather event.

  7. “Means Nothing!
    1. It’s only ‘weather’ not climate
    2. It’s the urban heat island effect
    3. It’s sunspots
    4. It’s galactic rays
    5. It’s cloud feedback
    6. It’s El Nino
    7. It’s La Nina
    8. It’s Al Gore
    9. ummmm…hold on a sec……oh!…It’s inaccurate weather stations! (Yes!)
    10. Oh! and….it’s been hotter before
    11. and…oh, only back to 1895…that’s real impressive!
    12.Mars is warming also
    13. Venus is warming also
    14. Alpha Centuri is warming also
    15. It was cold last night (well, at least a little bit ‘coolish)
    16. Please provide more…I think we can make it to 100!…anything, god forbid, ANYTHING than acknowledge what is actually happening.”

  8. Bill Walker says:

    Oh, we’re well past 100!

  9. squidboy6 says:

    Yes, this is the pattern and folks won’t remember it three weeks later. We have to remind them.

    But then again this time the weather is different from any I remember and my memory is good plus I’m no longer young.

    There will be economic effects this time and the prices of commodities will increase. They need to be reminded again and again.

  10. EDpeak says:

    “The June temperatures contributed to a record-warm first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.”

    Before some denialist hack jumps on you JR, I think you *meant* to say, “warmest 12-month period starting in July” since that links to all July-to-June 12 month periods, of which the current has been the hottest, but it doesn’t show how this 12 mo period compares to other 12-month periods..but it’s a remarkable graph..I notice a “lake wobegon” effect…since the mid-late 1990s ALL years are “above average”, all blue dots above the grey horizontal line.. The other calculatin I’m still trying to wrap my brain around..but this “Lake Wobegon” effect is not good news for the nation…

  11. Doug Bostrom says:

    Bzzt. Try again.

  12. EDpeak says:

    I feel the same frustration as you do and wish Obama would speak up BUT my rational brain tells me: if Obama spoke up tomorrow and then again and then again, and if there were as few people in the strets as now, it would accomplish nothing (or very little, or help the Republicans)

    But if Obama said nothing, and there were 100,000 in the street every week (that’s VERY modest, it’s like 10,000 in comparison with a country 1/10 our population and that happens quite a lot) then it doesn’t matter what Obama said or didn’t say before…if there were 100,000 every single week indefinitely (and building to 150,000 and 200,000 and more) this would make a difference.

    I’m not trying to “Let Obama off the hook” just comparing two scenarios and suggesting which one is actually likely to succeed, and it’s the latter one. The hard part is making the latter happen. [look in mirror] [look also at fellow commenters here]

  13. EDpeak says:

    that was supposed to read [looks in mirror] fingers or keyboard botched the “s”

    The extra “s” makes all the difference..meaning I was putting myself on the spot as much or more than others…

  14. Gestur says:

    Thank you, Jeff! Keep pointing out this obvious and total moral vacuity on the part of our President.

  15. EDpeak says:

    Clarification: yes, the graphic at the top does compare all 12-month periods..but the *link* which the words “warmest 12-month period ” in that bullet point, links to, is one which only shows a graph of all July-June 12 month periods..

  16. SqueakyRat says:

    Remember when we used to look forward to summer?

  17. SqueakyRat says:

    And the trend is: warmer.

  18. Paul Magnus says:

    Hell n high water

    “…the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water,….”

  19. Paul Magnus says:
    Hell n high water
    “…the government has an ideological agenda to develop the Canadian economy based on the extraction of oil out of the Alberta tar sands as quickly as possible and sell it as fast as it can, come hell and high water,….”

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It will not be slow. The cascading collapse of various ecosystems will feed off each other with dreadful synergies like an avalanche gaining speed and mass. And unstoppable, from at least a few decades back, as we are beginning to understand. The brainless frogs have won, and we all get to boil together.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You seem to be assuming that they have a conscience. That would be an error.

  22. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Right will never accept the truth because environmentalism is quintessentially Left, in that it puts life before money and power, and hence the Right will oppose it out of a pure reflex action, and because the Right cannot ever admit error or learn from their mistakes. Their hypertrophied egos (a pathological over-compensation for their mediocrity, in classic Dunning-Kruger fashion)will never allow it.

  23. Joe Romm says:

    The bullets are all direct quotes from NOAA.

  24. Buzz B says:

    This is just the state of the climate for the U.S. The “global analysis” won’t be released for a few days.

  25. EDpeak says:

    I feel the same way mulga, especially about leaders..and even the “person in the street” right-winger, this rings true about “never admit error”…but isn’t a more compassionate (and “left wing”) analysis one which for the very end of your post, subsitute something else instead of “mediocrity”? Certainly morally it’s a low quality response…some have high intelligence (e.g. masters degree in geology etc)…I think it’s not just compassionate but true to say it’s a kind of PTSD they fact some of us are left/progressive because we saw and deeply painfully felt pain at a young age seeing unfairness…I think some of them experienced something similar..but learned the wrong lesson..or learned the pain of being ‘odd man/woman out’ and made fun of for not conforming…they don’t consciously lie to themselves, but the conformity got embedded at a very deep psychological level..even liberal/left we are not immune but for some, it’s much stronger: you do NOT critice the tribe (so don’t be anti-war) and its ideology or else you’ll be made fun of so you deeply repress your doubts and you go with right-wing economics….that’s not so crazy, they repress homoerotic thoughts, people repress doubts about god and cover those doubts by being ultra religious, sometimes…why not in economic ideology and more in politics?

    As you can see I’m not just saying maybe we should be more compassionate in interpretation in order to have a 1% chance of winning over 1% of them, or to “be nice” (though those two are, well, nice too) but because at a deep level I think it’s true…

    Like you I feel the visceral frustration with right wingers, the ideology that is the death of civilization…and feel the same anger at the deny, deny, deny, never admit wrong, etc…leaders are so locked in they will virtually none of them will truly chance, but at the grassroots level, I think this insight into some kind of reaction to PTSD (rather than just being ‘less smart’) is an insight we can maybe use…if not to win of the right wingers then at least win over some of the public that is sitting on the fence confused, unsure which side to listen to…


  26. otter17 says:

    17. Crap and tax doesn’t work.
    18. It is all a scam made up by *insert Agenda 21, scientists, Al Gore, media, or NWO*.

    When talking to a contrarian, make it a point to ask what solutions they have for climate change mitigation that work for their tastes. Most of them avoid the question, and some have flat out told me that it would be impossible to reduce emissions even if it were hypothetically required.

    Really, the problem is with an emotional response that they have towards climate change and the solutions proposed. There is no logic that gets through to them, depending on their level of emotional attachment. Some have gone so far as to suggest wild conspiracy hypotheses.

  27. otter17 says:

    19. It is the Pacific Decadal Oscillation
    20. Volcanos are producing more CO2 than mankind.
    21. Ocean acidification isn’t happening or isn’t a problem.

  28. Bush says:

    Damn right. Some will boil in the sun, while others will boil in the mushroom clouds.

  29. Leif says:

    I keep hoping that “We the People” wake up and serve that function. I see no other solution. With the power these Corpro/People weld at this late date,???

  30. James W. Crissman says:

    I was an undergrad during the Viet Nam war. We screamed, marched, and sat in the streets. Students have always been the conscious of society. And in this case, the younger you are, the more this slow-motion disaster will affect your life. So where are their voices??? Where is the rising-up anger for our lack of action???

  31. Books says:

    And I thought Global Warming didn’t exist…

  32. One has to be not a genius to project these “decades ago – announced trends” further into the future.

    The future trend threatens the survival of our very civilization. We have to stop consuming fossil fuels and transition to a low carbon economy – immediately.

  33. m says:

    hey, put it this way… at least we’re smarter and have more time to prepare! i’m still not convinced, but if this is a trend, it may be time to get real.

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Lewis Yablonsky coined a term for this sort of corporate zombie-the Robopath. That slim volume woke me up to the reality of the terminal decline of humanity, led by those dead souls who had replaced their human consciences with a cash register.

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Fair enough. Empathy and compassion are essential to a humane life and civilization. I regret despising these creatures so much, because negativity is not constructive. I really wish that these people would wake up and join the decent fraction of humanity, but I doubt, to the point of being utterly convinced, that they ever will. Indeed I expect them to grow ever more vicious and when the disaster is upon us, I expect them to attack us, out of vengeance at being wrong and in order that they survive and we do not. That is how the Right acts, and has always acted throughout history. They are the death-impulse, the power of Thanatos, the destructive urge that resides within humanity and has always made our long-term survival problematic. The only way to defeat them and save humanity,(because, be certain, they are destroying us), involves actions that make us like them, which might be their ultimate and most ironic victory of all.

  36. Ted says:

    I’m tempted to do a “Visual Connection Experiment”…

    Place 1 Gallon of ICE, in a Glass Box, along with 1 Gallon of Gasoline. Put a hole at the bottom to collect the melted ICE into a bucket.

    Light a match, throw it inside, push RECORD on a video camera… then post the results to YouTube.

    For every 18 miles a car travels, this is how much the icecaps melt… Ships, Airplanes, Houses, burn far more… It would frighten everyone.

    The problem with our layman’s “understanding” is we’ve “visually hidden” what the burning of fossil fuels actually does!

    Next time, look at the “pipes” coming out of your roof of your house… it’s all invisible fire… gas, heat pushed right up into the atmosphere!

    I give our “human based” world 600-900 years more if we continue, which is scary!

    Let’s go 80% nuclear in the meantime, otherwise expect a smokey planet in less than 150 years…

    I think of radical ideas like giving countries “5 years” to clean up their most polluting industries… then give them a final, 6 month notice to get the people out… then BOMB that area. That might sound radical, but it’s entirely rational.

    Think about it…