The year 2012 will go into the record books as the most catastrophic 12-month period globally in recent history. The property loss total in the United States alone may exceed $50 billion, far greater than the $14 billion in losses in 2011.
The U.S. saw the hottest July on record with an average of 77.7 degrees. For some locations in the nation’s heartland, July was the hottest month since regular weather records began in 1880. Over the entire year, there were an amazing 70,000 local heat records established in 356 places in 34 states. Overall, 2012 was the eighth hottest year on record in the U.S.
The central U.S. had the worst drought since the 1930s. The extensive heat and dryness destroyed about 25 percent of the nation’s corn crop. Crop losses in wheat and soybeans were not as high, but still were extensive, especially west of the Mississippi River in the Great Plains.
A record number of tornadoes occurred between January and March. Oddly, April through December saw the fewest twisters nationwide in recorded history. There were some rare Christmas Day tornadoes last week in the South.
Less than 16 months after the Mississippi River crested at an all-time record of 62 feet, on Aug. 30 the river dropped to just 9 feet at the same location – New Madrid, Mo. – the lowest level since at least the 1880s. Barges had to travel single-file last autumn from St. Louis to New Orleans, greatly reducing the shipments of corn, soybeans and other various crops.
A summer windstorm called a derecho left millions without power in the Mid-Atlantic states. In late November just after Thanksgiving, more than 2 feet of rain in 48 hours caused extensive flooding in parts of Northern California as the Russian, the Napa and the Truckee rivers went over their banks.
One station in the Sierra Nevada gauged a whopping 10 feet of snow in late November and early December. Big snows also crippled the Upper Midwest shortly before Christmas.
The year’s biggest U.S. weather story was Superstorm Sandy along the Atlantic coastline. This killer storm flooded nearly 1,000 miles and killed 106 people in the U.S.