Last year was not the hottest year on record in the United States; it was only the second hottest. 2012 was the hottest because of some searing heat waves that summer. However, 2016 marked 20 above-average temperature years in a row. The five hottest years recorded have all happened since 1998. Every state had a temperature ranking at least in the top seven and both Georgia and Alaska had their hottest years ever. While it was only the second hottest year on record in the U.S., last year was the hottest year for the entire world.
The temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. Along with the pervasive heat over the last year, America also suffered 15 weather and climate disasters that each caused more than $1 billion in damage. In total, the U.S. saw more than $46 billion in losses including several rain-driven flooding events. Scientists say that the odds of having an event like the stunning 1 to 2 feet of rain that fell in the Baton Rouge area in August have doubled over the past century.
Alaska saw its hottest year on record for the third year in a row. Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, had an annual average temperature more than 7 degrees above the average of the past 30 years.
The major heat, rain and drought events in 2016 demonstrate how the changing climate is having an increasing impact on the country and underscores the need to help fortify our physical and economic assets in the face of climate extremes. It does not appear that our country is now likely to be headed in the direction of facing that challenge.
Photo, posted March 24, 2012, courtesy of Daniel Dudek via Flickr.