2012 Looks to be the Warmest Year Ever on Record

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This year is shaping up to be the warmest on record for the continguous United States — by a lot. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s state of the climate analysis found that January through November 2012 was the warmest January through November on record for the continental U.S. Those 11 months were 3.3°F above the 20th century average, and 1° above the previous record. (August 2011 through July 2012 was the warmest 12-month period ever.)

Global Temperatures

Global temperature percentiles for Jan.-Nov. 2012, from the NOAA's Nov. 2012 State of the Climate Report.

As the NOAA map above indicates, internationally, temperatures were well above average, and high temperatures broke regional records in much of North America. NOAA won’t issue its complete 2012 report until January, but a Climate Central analysis says warm days early in December make it a sure thing: This year will be a record breaker.

But as the world heats up, media coverage of climate change has cooled. As the chart below shows, coverage spiked in 2009 and again in 2012, but the trend since 2006 has largely been toward less coverage.

U.S. Media Coverage of Climate Change and Global Warming

U.S. media coverage of climate change and global warming, from the University of Colorado's Center for Science and Technology Policy research.

Dr. Max Boykoff, one of the researchers behind the chart, said in an email that he attributes the 2009 spike to the “ClimateGate” controversy and the Copenhagen conference, and the recent 2012 spike to Hurricane Sandy, the Doha conference and the presidential campaigns (where, though the candidates didn’t discuss climate change, many environmental advocacy groups received press when they called for the issue to be a topic in the debates).

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  • Anonymous

    The climate change silence is dumbfounding. On the one hand, responsible scientists are saying that if we continue our current path of Co2 emissions that in ~ 20 years we will have added enough to reach the 2 degree warming tipping point, forever changing the planet as we know it. That Pandora’s box isn’t just more Sandy’s or hotter summers. It’s catastrophic weather changes causing droughts, floods, fires, food and water shortages, displaced populations and resulting socioeconomic upheavals. The Pentagon takes it seriously enough to incorporate climate change in their recent strategic planning. On the other hand, there is no national discussion or call to action despite time running out to implement necessary (and drastic) changes. The public is only superficially aware, partly because the mass media doesn’t connect the dots or engage in discussion. The media’s suppression may be due to not wanting to alienate big-spending advertisers who oppose this kind of discussion. According to many experts, we need to reduce fossil fuel emissions by 50 – 80% to avoid the critical tipping point. This requires changes going far beyond buying energy efficient appliances, cars or light bulbs. In addition to a massive program to replace many dirty energy generators with clean, it would require rethinking our consumption of goods and services — the very basis of our economic system — which collectively (and unsustainably) require enormous amounts of energy to produce and maintain. Our recent gains in energy efficiency have been more than offset by increased consumption.

    Is the silence due to suppression of information by self-interests? Is it because the threat isn’t yet that imminent (which will be too late)? Or is it simply of such magnitude that it defies the collective imagination, despite early warning signs such as Sandy or the Midwest drought? If scientists announced that a large meteor was detected to be on a collision path with Earth, that it would arrive in 20 years and cause catastrophic damage, and that it could be stopped by a means that would require immediate action albeit a fundamental transformation in the use of resources, would this information be silenced or denied? Possibly. Historically, we have a poor track record in crisis prevention. We spend enormous amounts of resources either at the last minute or attempting to clean up after the fact. When (and even before) we reach the 2 degree tipping point, crisis management will be all that we’re doing. Climate change cannot be reversed and our time to act is running out.

  • http://profiles.google.com/natureguy12a Lorenzo DeTampa

    Oh how they will howl once it’s beyond too late to do much to prevent deaths and destruction when storms hit major urban coastal cities in the developed world. For now, the nay-sayers are getting their way, unfortunately.

  • Didi
  • vicente

    There is no one as blind as those that do not want to see. The writing is not on the wall anymore, it is all over reality and beyond people´s opinion. The nay-sayers are today´s terrorists, they are not just killing our future, they are killing us today. salut vicente

  • Anonymous

    Protecting the English language: CONTIGUOUS.
    Thanks for your coverage of this critical concern.

  • http://www.firebrandcentral.com/ Firebrand Central

    Do you think we could conclude that we’re destroying our environment with this addiction to oil and deregulation? http://www.firebrandcentral.com