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It’s In The Books: 2012 Was Warmest Year On Record For Lower 48 States

July 22, 2012: In Baltimore, John Rose tried to keep cool during one of the year's heat waves.

The red dots are places that last year set records for average annual high temperatures.

Last year "marked the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States," the National Climatic Data Center just confirmed.

This probably won't surprise many, but "a record warm spring, second-warmest summer, fourth-warmest winter and a warmer-than-average autumn" combined to make the year's average temperature 55.3 degrees F.

That's "3.2 degrees F above the 20th century average, and 1.0 degrees F above 1998, the previous warmest year."

And 2012 was also "a historic year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms," the data center points out. It notes, though, that "tornado activity was below average."

The center's "U.S. Climate Extremes Index" indicates that 2012 was "the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998. ... 2012 [saw] 11 disasters that have reached the $1 billion threshold in losses, to include Sandy, Isaac, and tornado outbreaks experienced in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley."

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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