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Extreme Weather Map Highlights 2012 Floods, Fires

Nationwide, more than 3,500 monthly weather records were surpassed last year, and one environmental organization says climate change is to blame.

Thousands of weather records were broken in the U.S. in 2012, including 95 in California alone, according to an interactive map released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The NRDC says the records set point to a pattern of extreme weather events and advocates for increased emergency planning as well as policy changes to limit the effects of climate change, such as reducing carbon emissions.

"Extreme weather events inflict tremendous costs on our health and families," the report states.

Nationwide, 3,527 monthly weather records for heat, rain and snow were broken in the United States, according to the NRDC. July was the single hottest month ever on record and the worst drought in 50 years struck the Midwest.

California experienced extreme heat, torrential downpours and massive snowfalls in 2012: 

  • Record-breaking heat in 15 counties and a total of 37 broken heat records
  • Record-breaking snow in 5 counties and a total of 5 broken snow records
  • Record-breaking precipitation in 18 counties and a total of 53 broken precipitation records
  • Total of 102 large wildfires

Nine monthly rainfall records were set in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2012:

New Northern California Precipitation Records Location Rainfall Total Date Old Record Date Atlas Road 4.4 in March 14 2.96 in 3/6/2006 St. Helena 3 in March 14 2.92 in 3/6/2006 Watsonville Airport 1.07 in April 12 1.06 in 4/4/2006 Watsonville Airport 1.17 in April 13 1.07 in 4/12/2006 Angwin Pac Union Col 5.92 in Nov. 30 4.98 in 11/21/1977 Atlas Road
4.84 in
Nov. 30 3.16 in
11/18/1950
San Jose International Airport 1.14 in Nov. 30 0.93 in 11/7/2002 St. Helena 4.6 in Nov. 30 3.58 in 11/18/1950 Watsonville Airport 2.07 in Nov. 30 1.83 in 11/9/2002

Northern California locales marked a record high temperature in Watsonville (Santa Cruz County) of 94 degrees on Nov. 6, surpassing the former mark of 93 degrees on Nov. 10, 1056.

There also was a new highest monthly minimum temperature recorded at the San Rafael Civic Center in Marin. It was 59 degrees on Dec. 2, up one degree from the former record of 58 (Dec. 30, 1995).

A new study by insurance giant Munich Re concluded that the amount of weather-related loss events in North America has nearly quintupled from 1980-2011. Some scientists believe climate change is a contributing factor to these extreme weather events.

A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, according to a special report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The IPCC report also states that some of the linkages between climate change and extreme events have been drawn more sharply than ever before, and likely will continue to increase with time. That means more hot days, and heavy rain in some regions while others experience severe droughts.

“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.”

Frank Geefay January 18, 2013 at 08:25 PM
I think the time for denying that climate change is real and primarily caused by man is ending. There is increasingly stronger proof that climate is rapidly happening now and it’s more than just melting glaciers. Even conservatives are increasingly admitting it. Now they are saying that China is the primary contributor in their use of coal so there is no use for the US to curb CO2 and pollution until China stops their use of coal. The problem with this argument is that China will say the same thing about the US and do little to curb the use of coal until the US stops using coal or start enforcing stricter pollution controls. The US is in a much better position to curb its emissions of greenhouse gasses since we are not a developing nation. This will give us legitimacy to ask China to curb its emissions. If we take only token steps to curb pollution then China is going to say that since the US is not seriously addressing the problem then neither should they. One may argue that even if we drastically curbed greenhouse gases this will not guarantee that China will follow suit. This may or may not be so but if we do not curb greenhouse gases this will give China a reason and guarantee that they will not to curb greenhouse gases. So we need to be an example to China. To say that if we curb CO2 emissions and China doesn’t this will have little impact on climate change is simply not true. The US is still a major contributor of greenhouse emissions in the world.
David H. Perez January 19, 2013 at 01:03 AM
I agree with you Frank, as there is plenty of scientific evidence that humans are the major contributors to global climate change. This is such a good opportunity for the U.S. to regain the leadership role that we once had by being an example of taking the necessary steps to save the planet. Unfortunately, the stupid variety of conservatives are alive and well, and are many. Hopefully at least some of them will educate themselves - and others just eventually die off.

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