Environmental Protection

2012: The Hottest Year on Record

AccuWeather has reported that the droughts and heat experienced during 2012 caused crops to wither and the levels of the Mississippi River to dwindle, while experiencing the warmest year on record for the U.S.

A fast storm track over northern Canada during the winter of 2011-2012 prevented cold air from reaching the U.S., keeping the air locked up near the Arctic Circle. That lack of cold air then greatly limited the intensity of storms during the winter and influenced the form of precipitation.

"This pattern, in turn, resulted in mild Pacific air over much of the U.S. and southern Canada. Additionally, a lack of snow cover over southern Canada then allowed any air coming southward to further warm up before entering the U.S," said Brett Anderson, expert senior meteorologist.

The warm start to the spring allowed some crops to be planted early in the Midwest, but the soil dried out very quickly. As the days got longer and the angle of the sun increased, temperatures climbed much higher than average over the Midwest and occasionally spread into the East as a result of the dry landscape. Many cities over the middle of the nation had weeks of 100-degree temperatures, which helped create a severe weather spike.

The excessive heat and drought not only resulted in reduced crop yields and brown pasture lands, but it also forced water restrictions in some communities. During the summer and autumn, levels became so low that drudging operations on behalf of the Army Corps of Engineers were stepped up to keep the shipping channel open, and barge companies were forced to lighten their loads to avoid running aground in the shrinking rivers.

Following the warmest first six months of the year and the hottest summer on record across the lower 48 states, it became apparent that 2012 would be in the running for the hottest years on record. Not even cooler conditions during November, nor chill the last few day of December took 2012 out of the top spot.

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