Climate change isn’t real…Right? After this past year, that’s definitely not a question I would ask Mother Nature if I were you. If she finds out we didn’t get the message in 2012 that climate change is occurring, I don’t want to know what her fists of fury are going to bring in the years to come to get the point across. To help bring her message home, here is a breakdown of the more impressive record extreme weather/climate events and impacts of 2012:
- As of December 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimated that the United States experienced 11 extreme weather events in 2012 that caused at least $1 billion in losses. This is the second highest number of extreme weather events to occur in one year — record year 2011, and expected to be the second costliest year in aggregate losses from extreme weather events — record year 2005.
- Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane ever observed in Atlantic Basin.
- 8.5 million homes lost power due to Hurricane Sandy.
- A record 65.5% of the continental United States experienced drought in September.
- 300,000 acres were burned in the largest wildfire ever recorded in New Mexico.
- Hottest year on record for the United States.
- Through November 2012, the global average temperature was warmer than the long-term average for a record 333rd consecutive month. To put this into perspective, those who are 27 years old and younger are yet to live during a month when global temperatures were below the 20th century average. (Official December data is still forthcoming, but will undoubtedly extend the streak to 334).
- July was the warmest month ever recorded in the United States.
- U.S. weather stations recorded 356 all-time temperature highs either tied or broken. (Conservative preliminary results. Some analysis suggests 362 all-time highs were observed.)
- Record 5 to 1 ratio of daily record highs to daily record lows in 2012. (see note for explanation of “all-time” versus “daily”)
NOTE: “All-time” records represent the hottest temperature ever recorded at individual stations. This is not the same as “daily” record highs and lows, which represent the warmest (or coldest) temperatures recorded for any given day of the year (e.g., the day of January 8th).
MELTING & SEA-LEVEL RISE
- Arctic Sea Ice extent reached the lowest level in recorded satellite history.
- Northern Hemisphere land snow coverage was the least amount ever recorded.
- The Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the largest melt extent in recorded satellite history.
- Researchers concluded global sea-level rose 60% faster during the last 20 years than projected in the latest assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
- Sea-level rise rates along the northern half of U.S. eastern seaboard are the highest in the world.
So after soaking in the catastrophic factoids of 2012, can we all agree that this is not a future world we want — or can afford — to live in? While there’s no chance I give up alcohol in 2013, I hope you’ll join me in a New Year’s resolution to move on from the “ignorance is bliss” and “instant gratification” mentality that has left us +20 pounds overweight and in this climate change mess. Instead, let’s take up Nike’s “Just Do It” attitude this year and tackle those long-term challenges by joining the gym and committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Noticeable results won’t come easy or overnight in either case, but we’ll end up looking better and living longer in the long run.