Environment

2015 Was the Second Hottest Year on Record in the U.S.

January 7th 2016

By:
Alex Mierjeski

2015 was the second hottest year on record, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday, with the average U.S. temperature 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the last century's average.

In each state, according to NOAA data, temperatures last year were warmer than the 20th century average . And although 2012 posted a slightly warmer average than 2015 — 55.3 Fahrenheit compared to 54.4 — the finding marked the latest data point in a troubling trend: 2015 was the 19th consecutive year the average annual temperature was above the 20th century average.

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2015 was one of the warmest on record

"No state was record cold, and actually no state was actually cooler than average during 2015," said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information said on a call with reporters on Thursday. "Oregon, Washington, Montana, and Florida had their warmest year on record."

Extreme weather events are costly.

Scientists also noted 2015's extreme weather events, 10 of which racked up losses exceeding $1 billion. Those events, which included California's historic drought, and the tornados and flooding that plagued the country's south in December, caused significant destruction and dozens of deaths.

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Extreme weather events costing $1 billion

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Along with 28 states experiencing much warmer than average temperatures, many states in the central and southeastern U.S. recorded a much wetter than average year. National temperature and precipitation data dates back to 1895.

Many states experienced record precipitation

National climate scientists said that there's no reason not to consider the U.S. climate in 2015 bizarre, even though averages might seem to lag behind global temperatures, which are expected to be the hottest on record in 2015.

"The U.S. being second warmest on record is a big part as an example on a small scale of the types of outcomes that, when put together, will give us our warmest global temperature on record. It's certainly nothing to dismiss as not being unusual," said Deke Arndt, chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch at NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information.

"It is emblematic of what will ultimately be the warmest year on record for the globe."

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Arndt said that a number of factors contributed to the temperatures, including a strong El Niño season, global warming, and a large bloom of algae off the U.S. West Coast known as the "blob" that affected the weather there. Still, he noted that unusually warm temperatures from El Niño patterns were not necessarily essential contributors to warm temperatures: the warmest year on record, 2012, was not an El Niño season.

Climate scientists have forecasted 2015 to be "extremely likely" to surpass 2014 as the warmest year for global temperatures. NOAA and NASA will release that data later this month.