Drought of 2012 Shatters Weather Records

Weather map shows 3,527 monthly weather records broken in 2012

Published on: Jan 17, 2013

In 2012, there were at least 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow broken by extreme weather events that hit communities throughout the U.S., according to an updated interactive extreme weather mapping tool and year-end review released this week by the environmental activist group Natural Resources Defense Council.

The 2012 tally exceeds the 3,251 records smashed in 2011 and catalogues these record-breaking extreme events in all 50 states.

New this year, the interactive map at www.nrdc.org/extremeweather also ranks all 50 states for the percentage of weather stations reporting at least one monthly heat record broken in 2012. The ten states showing the highest percentage with new heat records are: Tennessee (36%), Wisconsin (31%), Minnesota (30%), Illinois (29%), Indiana (28%), Nevada (27%), West Virginia (26%), Maine (26%), Colorado (25%), and Maryland (24%). Especially hard-hit regions include the Upper Midwest, Northeast, northern Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain states.

Weather map shows 3,527 monthly weather records broken in 2012
Weather map shows 3,527 monthly weather records broken in 2012

In 2012, Americans experienced the hottest March on record in the contiguous U.S., and July was the hottest single month ever recorded in the lower 48 states, NRDC says.

As a whole, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's State of the Climate report released last week. NOAA has also estimated that 2012 will surpass 2011 in aggregate costs for U.S. annual billion-dollar disasters, and international insurance company MunichRe also recently revealed that in 2012, more than 90% of the world's insured disaster costs occurred in the U.S.

Some of 2012's most significant weather events include:

* The summer of 2012 was the worst drought in 50 years across the nation's breadbasket, with over 1,300 U.S. counties in 29 states declared drought disaster areas.

* Wildfires burned over 9.2 million acres in the U.S., and destroyed hundreds of homes. The average size of the fires set an all-time record of 165 acres per fire, exceeding the prior decade's 2001-2010 average of approximately 90 acres per fire.

“This extreme weather has awoken communities across the country to the need for preparedness and protection. We know how to reduce local risks, improve our lives and create more resilient communities," Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist, said.

Farmers weathering 2012 are learning plenty about everything from crop insurance to seed genetics as parched conditions reshape farm business across the country. Consider our 5-part approach to moving ahead after the toughest drought since the 1930s.