The scientists at NOAA today officially named 2012 the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States.
The average temperature measured 55.3 degrees, more than 3 degrees above the 20th century average and a full degree above the previous 1998 high.
It was also the second most extreme year for weather on record, with 19 named storms, 61% of the country experiencing drought conditions and above average wildfire activity. Only in a slightly below-average tornado tally did Americans catch a break.
These statistics, which do not include additional evidence around the globe, underscore the sobering reality of climate change.
Last year also witnessed the failed presidential campaign of Mitt Romney, a politician who until June 2011 admitted (including in his book No Apology) that he believed in climate change and mankind’s role in it.
Of course, like so many of his positions, it was abandoned when the “severely conservative” former governor tacked to the right in order to win GOP primary voters.
Fast forward to late August–after Hurricane Isaac forced a one-day delay to the Republican National Convention–when Romney offered up an unprovoked laugh-line about his opponent as he claimed the party mantle.
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans,” the nominee said, biting his lip to allow his party loyalists a full 10 seconds to enjoy the mockery. “And to heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
But on October 28, just two weeks before voting day, the oceans did rise. Hurricane Sandy collided with a winter storm system over the northeast, creating a massive storm surge, destroying tens of billions of dollars in property and claiming more than 130 lives in the United States alone. Mother Nature delivered a cruel slap to the Romney campaign as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie–the keynote speaker at that same Republican National Convention–bucked partisan politics in favor of working alongside the president on disaster response.
As Romney evolved his position on climate change on the campaign trail, he would often say he did not know for sure that earth is getting warmer. Governor, today you can say it with certainty.