State News

Thousands of US weather records set in 2012

Posted January 15, 2013

— Nearly 60 weather records were broken in North Carolina, the Natural Resources Defense Council said Tuesday.

Nationwide, 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow were broken by extreme weather events, the group said. The number topped the 3,251 records set in 2011, as extreme events occurred in every state.

“2012’s unparalleled record-setting heat demonstrates what climate change looks like,” Kim Knowlton, NRDC senior scientist, said in a statement. “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.”

Some of 2012’s most significant weather disasters include the following:

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 2001-10 average of approximately 90 acres per fire.

Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge height, 13.88 feet, broke the all-time record in New York Harbor, and ravaged 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.

In North Carolina, the NRDC noted there was record-breaking heat in 24 counties, record-breaking rainfall in 11 and record-breaking snow in four, as well as 19 large wildfires.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates that 2012 will surpass the previous year in aggregate costs for U.S. annual billion-dollar disasters, in large part due to the trails of destruction from Sandy and the yearlong drought.

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