The future is now. And it is hot.

by: Blaine Skrainka

August 9, 2012

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today released new data showing that last month was the hottest July ever recorded, with temperatures in the contiguous United States coming in at 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.

The heat contributed to the ongoing drought that now covers nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48. The month of July saw two million acres — nearly half a million above average — burn in wildfires.

U.S. drought 2012
“Marion Kujawa looks over a pond he uses to water the cattle on his farm on July 16, 2012 in Ashley, Illinois.” via Scott Olson / Getty Images

According to the report, the Plains, the Midwest, and  Eastern Seaboard were hardest hit with the summer heat. Virginia beat out all states with their warmest July on record; statewide temperatures were 4.0 degrees above average. The tragic irony being that Washington D.C, home to our political elite, sits on the Eastern Seaboard, nestled between Maryland and Virginia.

Seven months into 2012, and we are off to the hottest year in recorded history, 4.3 degrees above the long-term average. Stepping back further, NOAA tells us that August 2011 through July 2012 is again the hottest 12-month period ever, at 3.3 degrees hotter than usual.

A new study led by James E. Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, states unequivocally that the extreme hot weather experienced over the recent past cannot be explained by anything other than climate change.

“Our new peer-reviewed study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, makes clear that while average global temperature has been steadily rising due to a warming climate (up about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit in the past century), the extremes are actually becoming much more frequent and more intense worldwide.

When we plotted the world’s changing temperatures on a bell curve, the extremes of unusually cool and, even more, the extremes of unusually hot are being altered so they are becoming both more common and more severe.”

Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico.
Satellite image of Hurricane Ernesto taken on Aug. 7, 2012 in the Gulf of Mexico. Courtesy of NOAA

Speaking of odds, in a separate release from NOAA this afternoon, the agency has revised up the probability of an above-normal hurricane season to 35 percent, while decreasing the chance of a below-normal season to 15 percent. This all during an El Niño year, a climate pattern that comes around roughly every five years and suppresses storm development. 

Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center, explains, “We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic.”

While the political climate remains nebulous, the scientific community is quite clear. Dr. Hansen warns: “The future is now. And it is hot.”

 

 

Related:

Connecting the Climate Dots: Weather, Climate, and Our Role

A Political Climate

Recommended Reading: 

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

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