- Published on Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
- Written by JANET LARSEN
By A Web design Company
The warmest decade on record has brought weather extremes and record temperatures.
And the deadliest weather event of 2012 was the category 5 Super Typhoon Pablo. It hit Mindanao in December with torrential rainfall and wind speeds of 257 kilometers per hour, leading to 1,900 dead or missing and 700,000 homeless.
It was the second year in a row a major storm made landfall in Mindanao, following the wave of destruction brought by Typhoon Sendong in 2011, also in December.
On the flip side, 2012 overall was the hottest year in US history, topping the 20th-century average.
At its peak, drought covered nearly two-thirds of the United States. Power plants shut down because of the lack of cooling water. Low water levels disrupted Mississippi River barge traffic. Crops withered; corn yields in key producing areas were cut by a fifth or more.
Purdue University economist Chris Hurt estimates the cost of the drought could exceed $75 billion.
With drought lingering into 2013, particularly in the Great Plains, the odds of a second year of harvest shortfalls in the United States are increasing.
In recent years weather events have whiplashed between the extremes of heat and cold, drought and flooding.
Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases – largely from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas – have loaded up in the atmosphere, heating the planet and pushing humanity onto a climatic seesaw of weather irregularities.
High-temperature records in many places are already being broken with startling frequency, and hotter temperatures are in store.
Without a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel use, we will veer even further away from the “normal” temperatures and weather patterns that civilization is adapted to.
The world has warmed by 0.8 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, with most of the rise in temperature coming since the 1970s. Such rapid warming is unprecedented over at least 20,000 years.
The average global temperature in 2012 was 14.56 degrees Celsius. This sets it among the 10 warmest years on record – all of which, according to NASA data dating back to 1880, have occurred in the last 14 years.
The two headline-dominating weather events of 2012 both occurred in the United States: the intense summertime drought and heat that baked the country’s midsection and Superstorm Sandy, which clobbered the East Coast in late October.
After a winter that never seemed to take hold over much of the United States – with snow coverage across the lower 48 states the third lowest on record – summer-like weather arrived in March.
Close to 15,000 new high-temperature records were set. Thus began the warmest spring in US history, setting the stage for further high temperatures and an epic drought.
July 2012 was the hottest month ever in the continental United States, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
The other most expensive weather event of 2012 was the opposite precipitation extreme: Superstorm Sandy. Sandy was number 18 of 19 named Atlantic storms in a season that began even before its official start, with two storms forming in May.
After bringing heavy rain to the Caribbean and killing 72 people, Sandy merged with a winter storm, transforming into a meteorological chimera. Rather than traveling a more typical pathway out to sea, Sandy made an abrupt left-hand turn to make landfall on the US East Coast. Fueled by high sea-surface temperatures and loaded with extra moisture due to warmer air temperatures, Sandy brought more than a foot of rainfall to parts of the mid-Atlantic region. Coasts from Maryland to Massachusetts were hit by a tremendous storm surge that in Lower Manhattan reached more than 9 feet above the normal high-tide level.
In New York and New Jersey close to 100 people died, and more than a half-million homes were damaged or destroyed. Blizzards blanketed parts of Appalachia with the most snow ever recorded for a US storm in October. Costs are still being tallied, but state governments report damages of $62 billion. Earth Policy Institute