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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