While the debate continues over man-made or natural causes, there's no debate about last year's temperature data: 2012 was the warmest year in the United States since record-keeping began back in the 1800s.
Temperature data for the United States shows a mean temperature for 2012 of 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. The record is more than three degrees above normal.
The 2012 average bested the previous record, set in 1998, by more than a full degree.
Portland bucked the national trend. Temperatures here were near normal last year. However, 19 states did set all-time heat records for the year. July 2012 was the warmest on record for our country, and last summer was the second-hottest on record. Extreme warm temperatures far out-paced record lows.
The biggest impact of the record-warm year was the severe drought that gripped the nation's heartland. In addition, nearly one-third of the country coped with at least 10 days of 100-degree or hotter temperatures during the year. The year 2012 was the 15th-driest year on record.
So far this winter, much of the upper Midwest snow pack is well below normal. If the trend of little snow and below normal spring and summer rain continues, vital waterways such as the Mississippi river may not be able to support river commerce.
Watch for the drought to be a huge story this coming summer if Mother Nature does not deliver much needed precipitation.
More information is available at: www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/
KGW Meteorologist Rod Hill