2012 Saw 362 All-Time Record High Temperatures In U.S. But Zero All-Time Record Lows

Describing how off the charts our weather has become gets harder and harder. Fortunately, we have wunderground historian Christopher Burton to put things in perspective.

He tallies the data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in his recap of “the warmest calendar year on record for the continental U.S. according to NCDC data going back to 1895”:

A chart of the total number of NCDC sites that measured daily and/or monthly record high and low temperatures. There are about 5,500 of these sites in the NCDC database all together and it is important to note that the first two columns of this table are not all-time record highs or all-time record lows but daily and monthly records. So, for instance, a single site may have broken dozens of daily records over the course of the year. The 5th and 6th columns are for all-time record highs and lows: a total of 362 such heat records and 0 such cold records occurred. The ratio of daily record highs to daily record lows (about 5 to 1) were the greatest for any year in NCDC records.

This was the year where winter was like spring (see L.A. Times Explains U.S. ‘Seems to Have Largely Escaped Winter’ and ABC News Explains Warm Winter, ‘Wild Swings In Weather’, Driven by Global Warming, Only Going to Get Worse).

Then spring was like summer (see March Heat Records Crush Cold Records by Over 35 To 1, Scientists Say Global Warming Loaded The Dice and March Madness: ‘This May Be An Unprecedented Event Since Modern U.S. Weather Records Began In The Late 19th Century’).

Finally summer was something from the Dust Bowl era (see “July Heat Records Crush Cold Records By 17 To 1, ‘Historic Heat Wave And Drought’ Fuels Oklahoma Fires).

Imagine what our weather will be like if we are foolish enough to ignore all scientific warnings, If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming.

h/t Forecast the Facts

46 Responses to 2012 Saw 362 All-Time Record High Temperatures In U.S. But Zero All-Time Record Lows

  1. MorinMoss says:

    While I find this worrisome, I don’t think the deniers will even blink before they start chanting “UHI, USA, UHI, USA!!”

  2. MarkfromLexington says:

    Excellent Post. Short to the point and very memorable.
    Thank you.

  3. Joan Savage says:

    The next criterion to examine might not be about extremes, but a more subtle measurement about how frequently a site experienced temperature within a NORMAL range of low or high, or NORMAL precipitation.

    I live in Syracuse, New York, typically the US city of over 100,000 population in the lower 48 states with the highest annual snowfall. This year to date, we are again at the top of the list, but still 7 inches below our average snowfall accumulation by this date. That isn’t true for all cities in the competition, some are higher than average for their locales, but still fall below Syracuse. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and Syracuse weather is proverbially variable, it just prompts me to wonder about how to talk about trends, rather than extremes.

  4. Jacob says:

    As usual, excellent work Mr. Romm. You’re site is a must visit for me at least once a day and most of the time more than that. I don’t see this registering for anyone other than “the choir” here, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be valuable for the record–if just to say at least someone tried to tell us what was going on while we slept at the wheel.

  5. Superman1 says:

    You state: “Imagine what our weather will be like if we are foolish enough to ignore all scientific warnings, If We Fail To Stop 10°F Warming.” There is no evidence at all that we will cut back our use of fossil fuels to any degree, and reduce CO2 emissions to any noticeable amount. We are engaging in wishful thinking at this point, and if we haven’t already reached the stage McPherson believes we have, give it a few more years.

  6. wili says:

    I can’t quite wrap my head around this.

    I though the ratio of record highs to record lows (which should be about 1:1 on average in a stable climate) was an astonishing 32:1 in March, iirc. And it was a lower ratio other months. But there was always _something_ on the other side of the colon.

    How could there now be a goose egg on the right side of the ratio?

    What am I missing?

  7. wili says:

    OK, I should have read more carefully before asking stupid questions.

    “There are about 5,500 of these sites in the NCDC database all together and it is important to note that the first two columns of this table are not all-time record highs or all-time record lows but daily and monthly records. So, for instance, a single site may have broken dozens of daily records over the course of the year. The 5th and 6th columns are for all-time record highs and lows: a total of 362 such heat records and 0 such cold records occurred. The ratio of daily record highs to daily record lows (about 5 to 1) were the greatest for any year in NCDC records”

    So for _daily_ records the ratio for the year is 5:1 (after 2:1 for the aughts, and 3:1 for 2011, iirc), but for all time records for any particular sight, none were broken on the low side and 362 were broken on the high side.



    Still, would be nice to compare this particular measure with previous years and decades.

    For the US, at least, things seems to be heating up at an exponential rate.

    How do these figures compare with North Hemisphere figures?

  8. Adam R. says:

    Those were records for the months, not all-time records.

  9. dick smith says:

    I read col. 5 and 6 as all-time records for the 3-month SEASON specified on the far left column.

  10. David Goldstein says:

    Well- they just released CO2 for December- over 394. Not only that- it seems to be going up 2.6 ppm per year now. I am guessing that this increase (from about 2 per year) has something to do with increased permafrost carbon and decreased carbon sink uptake? Regardless- at this rate (and it will likely increase more as time goes on) we are do for 450 ppm in about 2034. I would guess sooner since both those factors- additional feedback carbon release AND carbon sink saturation – will be exacerbated. It really and truly does not look good. At all.

  11. David Goldstein says:

    btw- last May co2 was over 395. Maybe 398 this May? (so close!)

  12. Joe Romm says:

    Actually this site reaches well beyond the choir, but the “Hunger Games” generation will want to have a history somewhere, no doubt….

  13. Paul Magnus says:

    I think this pretty much spells – TIP.

    The records are tripping n falling everywhere, right across the globe.

    Duck and cover folks.

  14. PeterM says:

    actually C02 reached 397ppm in Mid May 2012.

  15. Paul Magnus says:

    The records are tripping n falling everywhere… at a record rate…

  16. Jack Burton says:

    A good point Superman 1, I find it a bit of a joke that so many comments on climate change are qualified with “if”, as if there is any sign at all that fossil fuel burning will be curtailed, as if there actually is a move to reduce CO2 emissions!
    All the verifiable evidence shows that fossil fuel burning is increasing, that fossil fuel industry has massive plans to expand extraction, that nations plan to build hundreds more coal power plants, that nations are road building like mad to handle vast new fleets of cars the world’s new middle classes are buying. See China for example.
    The only evidence we have is that world economies want and plan to burn massive new quantities of fossil fuels, that they plan to extract fossil fuels across the globe. See Canadian “tar sands” for an example.
    The wishful thinking in the face of reality seems mindless at this point. Who are the deniers? I think too many people on our side of the climate debate are in denial. They think and act as if something is going to be done to limit CO2. Wrong! The opposite is the case, every nation is in a race to burn more fossil fuel, to spur more economic growth to try and expand population growth to gain higher GDP’s. Etc. Etc.
    I have called it one giant suicide pact. That is the course we are on. It is a determined attempt to commit global suicide and the process is speeding up, not slowing down.

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The trend is bad, and unmistakeable, buy it’s the extremes that will do the damage.

  18. rollin says:

    Are there similar data sets for more northern regions such as Canada and Alaska? With the dramatic changes in albedo and the permafrost melting, there should be even greater temperature highs. The destabilization of the arctic vortex could also give greater lows.

  19. David Goldstein says:

    well…then there is an outside shot at 400 in about 5 months. Go team!

  20. wili says:

    Do we have numbers for how many deaths were attributed directly to the heat wave this year?

  21. Spike says:

    UK’s wild weather of the past year featured in this programme:

  22. Superman1 says:

    Excellent post. Only one point I would add. All these fossil fuel energy use expansions are based on the collective ‘we’ wanting more and more ‘things’ and ‘luxuries’ and work-saving ‘conveniences’. Living like the Pennsylvania Amish or indiginous Native Americans is more in line with what Nature wants as self-sustainability. The difference between what we want and what Nature wants will cost us our civilization.

  23. Superman1 says:

    Discussing these metrics is like quibbling about the number of deck chairs left on the Titanic. Your only concern at this point should be: who will sit Shiva for our civilization in seventy years?

  24. Superman1 says:

    We have a problem with the structure and focus of this blog. Most of the articles focus on how bad the climate is getting and how little is being done. That’s focus on the negative. We need a thread that focuses on the positive. What are potential solutions, with everything remaining on the table, no matter how odious or ‘blue sky’ they may appear at present? The solutions offered presently, no matter how nice in theory, have not worked, are not working, and have little probability of working in the limited time left.

  25. Superman1 says:

    See my response to 1. above. Do you agree?

  26. Superman1 says:

    In eighty years, who will be around to read this record? If an item is recorded, and there is nobody around to read it, did it have an impact?

  27. Hazel says:

    The solution is obvious: put a price on carbon, so our country moves away from carbon-intensive energy and other technologies. We’ve known this since about 1990.

    It’s the knee-jerk response of the other side, which listens to corporate propagandists instead of scientists and values campaign contributions over our planet’s future, that makes this tone necessary.

    Do you have some ideas on how to overcome the overwhelming money advantage (over $1 billion spent on anti-science propaganda in the past three years alone) and persuade people to do the right thing?

  28. Superman1 says:

    Tax on carbon sounds nice, but, today, it means doubling or tripling the price of gas in the USA if we want serious reductions of the magnitude required to avoid the bullet, and similar price increases on other fossil fuel applications. Suppose we eliminated all corporate propaganda on these issues. How many people would buy off on these effective huge tax increases today? Frankly, none that I know.

  29. Consider the Connection to:
    Environmental Communications CTC1 [KNOWLEDGE]
    The more KNOWLEDGE we have, the more connections we make.

  30. prokaryotes says:

    Let’s assume there is “The Shelter” which establishes some form of system and entry is only for people who were not part of the problem.


    But seriously the lamestream media is doing such a bad job of informing without bias and bs that you require resources like CP to educate yourself. The news are biased in a sense were personal character could mean yes or no in the end for those who consume these news.

  31. prokaryotes says:

    Mass media and reproductive behaviour: serial narratives, soap operas and telenovelas

    In Nepal, for example, Barber and Axinn found that ‘exposure to mass media is related to…preferences for smaller families, weaker son preference, and tolerance of contraceptive use’ (Barber and Axinn 2004)

  32. prokaryotes says:

    The below is an example were media is put to a better use, but most of the time it is used to make people dumb and consume without thinking of the consequences i.e. environmental degradation. The study only proves again how influential they are for the people who relay on it.

  33. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I am begining to wonder about what really lies behind these dogmatic, often inaccurate, and unrelenting assaults on the motivation of the rest of us to explore and take action about our problem. If the currently quite uncivilized USA ‘civilization’ is even saved in part, it certainly won’t be your fault, ME

  34. BillD says:

    Two articles in my newspaper are informative. A headline article summarized 2012, noting that it was a very warm year with a dailly warm/cold records of about 5:1. Some what paradoxically, the subheading was “burr” presumably refering to the infrequent cold records. Despite comments on a very warm year, no mention of climate change.

    The second article was in the business section, pointing out that utilities expect a carbon tax well within the life of power plants now being build or planned. They also don’t expect cheap natural gas to continue over the life of new plants. Interesting.

  35. Joan Savage says:

    It doesn’t always take an extreme to do damage.
    Here’s a dangerous trend in apple growing country, where I live.
    Earlier spring blooms seems innocuous until the pollinators don’t show up in adequate numbers or a frost kills off most of the buds, leaving little hope of a crop.
    There’s not a singular new temperature extreme to point at, but crop failure is real enough.

  36. nyc-tornado-10 says:

    You deserve credit, 70 years is quite optimistic. I am more pesimistic, maybe i’ve been to rockaway beach too much lately!

  37. Superman1 says:

    You mean there’s still a Rockaway Beach?

  38. Mauri Pelto says:

    You ask for Blue sky optimism, but then do not seriously consider the carbon tax. A carbon tax is something other nations with good economies have. It is clearly not an economy killer. A reasonable tax, $25 per ton of CO2 could add about 21 cents per gallon, not double or triple it. Check out Resources for the Future for details

  39. John McCormick says:

    Superman, you bemoan the gasoline price hike with a carbon tax. How do you react when OPEC decides to cut oil production to hike up the gasoline price? We pay oil producers their carbon tax already.

  40. John McCormick says:

    Merrelyn, you raise a very challenging point and I’m struggling with the same reaction you have.

    And, I know those commenters of whom you speak, not personally, but I am likely in their age category.

    Most of us have lived through many ‘global’ promises:
    war to end all wars; eliminate poverty, hunger, illiteracy, aids, crime, water shortages, traffic congestion in ten years.

    Lots to brag about. Not much to show for the pledges.

    I sometimes lapse into talking with my wife about how 2050 is likely to unfold and she shuts me up quickly because we are talking about the future for our son and daughter. She knows more than most about the chemistry of atmospheric carbon concentration but cannot accept the consequences of our failing to arrest it.

    As I read comments you allude to, I share their view while trying to find some way to get our ‘leaders’ to do more than talk. Time is running out and those who know that are mad as hell about the lack of true leadership even among our big green.

    I don’t question the motives of the commentors. We are all in this together and some of us older folk feel both guilt and frustration.

  41. Superman1 says:


    I don’t bemoan it. All I’m saying is for the Carbon Tax to be effective in reducing fossil fuel consumption, it has to have a serious impact. Twenty-one cents a gallon is not going to do it. The tax would have to be sufficiently large, like doubling or tripling ther price of gas, in order to have an impact of the size required to stave off climate change. The electorate will not buy off on a tax of sufficient magnitude to impact climate change.

  42. Michael Kirkby says:

    Perhaps this is what happens when you acidify the oceans; destroy the coral reefs; over fish; cut down the rainforests; pollute every resource with chemicals and industrial waste and mess around with the ionosphere.

    Fracking and other shale oil exploration and development have used 65+ billion gallons of water; of which only 10% is recoverable and reusable. The other 90% must be inserted back into the earth at a minimum of 7,000′ and there is always cross contamination whether from it or the slurry type ponds above ground. We will not see that water any time soon. Water is not a renewable resource.

    Of all the water on the earth only 1% is fresh water and of that 20% is in the Great Lakes. The headwaters for the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers are in the Great Lakes. Is it any wonder there is a problem with water levels on the Mississippi? It is the same problem for the Colorado; the Athabaskan [Alberta] and the Red River/Missouri systems.

    All of these things contribute to extreme inclement weather when the planet is unable to regulate itself properly. I think that in the name of progress and in the servitude to the god of this world, PROFIT we are truly the authors of our own destruction.

  43. Ricky says:

    OK, that “USA, USA” comment actually made me laugh out loud. Brilliant @MorinMoss.

  44. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thank you for your response John which provides some clues as to the nature of this defeatism in the USA. Your mention of promises, the reliance on ‘leaders’ together with guilt and frustration are all classic symptoms of ingrained dependency, the second face of an authoritarian regime. If this diagnosis is correct, it is easy to see the easy slide into ‘nothing can be done’. It also explains the relatively frequent breakout of individuals into mass violence and the relatively low numbers of organized climate activists, ME