Skip to main content

Extreme Weather Records Shattered in 2012

NEW YORK -- Put 2012 in the record books. Nationwide, 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow were broken, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The 2012 number exceeds the 3,251 records smashed in 2011.

This year, the NRDC has also published an interactive map at that ranks all 50 states according to the percentage of weather stations reporting at least one monthly heat record broken in 2012. The 10 states showing the highest percentage with new heat records are: Tennessee (36 percent), Wisconsin (31 percent), Minnesota (30 percent), Illinois (29 percent), Indiana (28 percent), Nevada (27 percent), West Virginia (26 percent), Maine (26 percent), Colorado (25 percent), and Maryland (24 percent). Especially hard-hit regions include the Upper Midwest, Northeast, northern Great Plains, and Rocky Mountain states, the non-profit environmental organization said.

"2012's unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like," said Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist. "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. Now our leaders must act."

The 3,527 monthly records-broken in 2012 highlight notable patterns of extreme weather in the United States because they compete against prior records set over at least the last 30 years at each location, the NRDC said. From 1980 through 2011, the frequency of weather-related extreme events in North America nearly quintupled, rising more rapidly than anywhere else in the world, according to international insurance giant MunichRe.

In 2012, Americans experienced the hottest March on record in the contiguous United States, and July was the hottest single month ever recorded in the lower 48 states. As a whole, 2012 was the warmest year ever recorded in the country, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) State of the Climate report released last week.

Some of 2012's most significant weather disasters include:

  • The summer of 2012 featured the worst drought in 50 years across the nation's breadbasket, with more than 1,300 U.S. counties in 29 states declared drought disaster areas.
  • Wildfires burned more than 9.2 million acres in the United States, and destroyed hundreds of homes.
  • Superstorm Sandy's storm surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in New York Harbor, and battered communities across New Jersey and New York with floodwaters and winds. The cost of Sandy reached an estimated $79 billion with at least 131 deaths reported.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds