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2012 was one of the Strangest Weather Years Ever

The American Meteorological Society released its 2012 State of the Climate report this month with scary information: 2012 was one of the top ten hottest years ever recorded. Kathryn D. Sullivan, Ph.D. of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explained that “many of the events that made 2012 such an interesting year are part of the long-term trends we see in a changing and varying climate — carbon levels are climbing, sea levels are rising, Arctic sea ice is melting, and our planet as a whole is becoming a warmer place.”

In addition to heat, there were strange phenomenons throughour the year.

A supercell thunderstorm dropped numerous two to three inch diameter hailstones on the island of Oahu, Hawaii on March 9, 2012. This shattered the previous state record one inch diameter hailstone.

In 2012, over 20 cities saw a warmer March than April, including Chicago, Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio. In March at 21 locations from Vermont to Minnesota, registered daily low temperatures tied or broke daily record high temperatures.

There was a strange start to hurricane season in 2012. Hurricane Chris became the season’s first hurricane but it was not in the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico but in the North Atlantic Ocean. In addition, Tropical Storm Beryl was the strongest tropical cyclone to make a pre-June U.S. landfall on record, with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Beryl formed in roughly the same region that Tropical Storm Alberto fizzled just days before. Only two other years have had the first two named storms form before June 1 (1908 and 1887).

Florida’s exceptional 2012 drought was erased in just one month. In the days before Memorial Day, almost 84% of Florida was officially in drought. A strip of north Florida from Jacksonville west to near Cedar Key was classified as in “exceptional” drought, the most dire category. The drought was wiped away with widespread rain in only about one month. First, Tropical Storm Beryl soaked north-central Florida to eastern North Carolina. About a month later, Tropical Storm Debby took its turn with up to 28″ of rain in a couple days from Debby in Wakulla County.

In late June to early July many U.S. areas experienced extreme heat waves. Charlotte, N.C. tied its all-time record high (104) not just once but three days in a row from June 29 through July 1. Washington, D.C. registered 4 straight days of triple-digit heat, tying a record streak from July 1930. All-time state record highs were set in South Carolina (113) and Georgia (112).

And so far in 2013, rare weather events have become commonplace. We had a topsy-turvy winter. There were crazy storms in NYC and 16-inch snowfalls in the middle of May in Minnesota.

This summer has seen heat waves across the eastern U.S. — roasting cities from Memphis to Washington to Boston in a stifling blanket of heat and humidity. Rather than moving west to east, as typical weather patterns do in the Northern Hemisphere, weather systems across the country have moved in the opposite direction, drifting from east to west. The air flow heading in the opposite direction across the U.S. is abnormal, as is the strength of the dome of high pressure.

According to a report by the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 97% of peer-reviewed papers by climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and is caused by humans. And yet, only 41% of Americans believe that.

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