2012 may go into the record books as the warmest year on record for the Pioneer Valley and the continental United States. At Bradley International Airport, an average yearly temperature about 3.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal is the highest since records began for the Pioneer Valley in 1905.
The National Weather Service in Taunton, MA, said the data is preliminary and will undergo further analysis and confirmation before making it official. Bradley International, located in Windsor Locks, CT, serves as the official climate station for the Pioneer Valley.
A large factor in the record-setting year was the very mild start to the year. 2012 had the second-warmest winter on record (5.9 degrees above average) and tied the all-time warmest spring (5.4 degrees above average) at Bradley. The month of March alone had high temperatures a full 10 degrees above average, making it a new record-warm month.
This past February was the second-warmest February on record. April, May, July and August also made the top 10 list for warmth for their respective months.
Boston, Providence and Worcester are the other three official climate stations in southern New England controlled by the National Weather Service office in Taunton. Boston and Worcester also had their warmest year on record in 2012, while Providence had their second-warmest year on record.
Like Bradley International, Providence's records also date back to 1905. Boston (with a climate station located at Logan Airport) and Worcester have records that date back to the late 1800s.
The continental United States also appears to have set the new warmest year on record. Through November, mean temperatures in the Lower 48 was 57.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The data for December still needs to be confirmed by NOAA and the National Climatic Data Center, but it would have taken an all-time record cold month for the year long temperatures to come up short of the record.
Excessive drought gripped much of the nation in 2012, with the Pioneer Valley also seeing precipitation totals well below normal. A total of 38.44 inches of precipitation was recorded, which is 7.41 inches below average. While November was a record-dry month, the second-half of 2012 was generally closer to average than the first half of the year.
A primary cause of the drought across the Midwest this year was the very mild and dry month of March in the Great Plains. The lack of snow, and consequently the lack of water from snow melt, caused dry farmland early in the growing season. Those dry conditions were only enhanced by the hot weather that lasted through the summer.
Experts believe that the severity of this drought is only rivaled by the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. While the destruction from Superstorm Sandy grabbed many headlines in 2012, the global impacts of this drought may make it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.
On a fortunate note, the number of tornadoes this year may have dropped to its lowest total in the Doppler radar era. Hot, dry conditions helped limit the number of severe weather outbreaks this past year.
A complete breakdown of all the numbers and records can be seen on the CBS3 Pinpoint Weather Blog.
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