2012 Weather Rewind….A Year of Extremes

By Meteorologist Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV
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Joe Joyce

Joe Joyce, WBZ-TV meteorologist

If one thing comes to mind about 2012 it will be the warmth.

Warmest Year on Record
It was a year without a winter and every month averaged close to 3-5 degrees above normal leaving a paltry 9.3″ of total snowfall at Logan airport for the season. This coming off a winter before it which received so much snow in such a short amount of time that roofs were collapsing around the region from the weight of the snow. But 2012 has been different. Record breaking on many levels. For North America, it was the warmest year since we have been keeping records.
Extreme Summer Heat
By July, temperatures scorched across the midwest. According to Wunderground.com, July was the warmest month of any month in the 1,400+ months of the U.S. data record, going back to 1895. Record high temperatures of 105-115 were typical in this extreme heat wave which mercifully broke by August

March Tornado Outbreak
The unseasonal warmth in place helped to trigger an early start to the tornado season in early March in a tornado outbreak with 70 tornadoes touching down in eleven states across tornado alley. Just as the tornadoes seemed at their worst, the warmth continued to build, which helped to shut down the tornado season for good. Tornado activity ended up averaging below normal for the year.

Record Breaking Drought
The warm flat flow to the jetstream took it’s toll for the heartland of the nation where a serious drought began to develop. As temperatures approached record breaking heat in the summer, extreme evaporation happened sucking up all the moisture in the soil leaving vegetation parched. Lack of thunderstorms in the dry pattern provided no relief. The drought became known as the Great drought of 2012. While not as bad as the Dust Bowl of the of 1939, this year’s drought is second in line. This drought has had a devastating impact for farmers across the midwest. The drought continues today and the impacts are not fully realized for the nation as a whole as crop damages are estimated up to 35 billion and will likely climb.

Colorado Wildfires
Wildfire seasons across the western US are pretty common and they usually can be pretty devastating for areas impacted by the spreading fires. But again, 2012 was about setting records. This wildfire season was the third worst in recorded US history (since 1960) with over 9 million acres burned or destroyed. Colorado had the wort damage from the fires in these arid conditions.

3rd Most Active Hurricane Season
Meanwhile, the tropics came to life in 2012. With 19 named storms for the third year in a row… it is tied as the third most active season on record. Again, we must stress our records are only accurate to the time of Satellites (1950’s). Before satellites, we had no idea storms were brewing out at sea. Now it seems we name almost anything in the central Atlantic with a closed circulation…so this adds to the numbers. Despite, all of these storms most did not make landfall across the US. But in a hurricane season…all it takes is one major storm. This year we had 2 big storms make landfall.

Hurricane Isaac made landfall as a Category 1 Hurricane with 80 mph winds near New Orleans. Not nearly as powerful as Destructive as Katrina, the city’s new improved levee system helped to keep most of the water out of the city. Still a few billion dollars of damage were reported along with torrential rain of 15-20 inches which created severe inland flooding.

Hurricane Sandy, otherwise known as “Superstorm Sandy” was 2012’s lead weather storm having an enormous impact along the mid Atlantic coastline from Atlantic City right up into downtown Manhattan. With a central minimum pressure of 946 mb–Sandy had the lowest atmospheric pressure on record along the Northeast coast….rivaling the Hurricane of 1938. What was amazing about Sandy, was not necessarily the strength of the storm..there have been stronger Hurricanes….but the incredible size of the storm. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been larger. As the storm went from tropical to extra tropical, this expanding wind field from the center of the storm did damage up and down the coast. The strong winds drove water into the North and central coast of New Jersey with a devastating storm surge upto 12 feet which destroyed legendary boardwalk communities which are still struggling to rebuild. Estimated damages from Sandy make it the second most damaging storm…with over 60 million in damages. With coastlines becoming more developed and the cost of everything going up, along with the gradual creep of sea level rise… Insurance companies are taking notice of the coast these storms will do in the future.

So that about sums up the year that was 2012. Of course, there were plenty of other smaller weather events which happen everyday all over the planet which were not mentioned. These were just the big ones. Here is to hoping the weather of 2013 will be kind to New England….and hopefully keep it snowing in ski country in the winter and many beautiful days come summer. Happy New Year everyone! Thank you for your interest in WBZ weather! We so appreciate you tuning us in!

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