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Washington Voices

Record heat, snowcover, floods mark 2012

Thu., Jan. 17, 2013

Globally, 2012 was filled with weather extremes.

The year began with an extremely harsh winter in Europe that killed more than 800 people. Rare snows closed schools in Rome. The canals in Venice, Italy, to the north froze for the first time in more than 200 years.

The snowcover in the Northern Hemisphere on Jan. 24, 2012, from China and Japan across Alaska – which had its snowiest winter in 50 years – through Europe and western Asia was the most extensive on record.

In late December, parts of Russia dipped to minus-55 to minus-60 degrees, setting all-time record low readings.

Over the summer, ice depletion was a concern in the Arctic. In Greenland, the total area of ice shrank in early September to its lowest level on record since 1979. At the same time, the opposite was happening at the other pole: The total icepack increased to its highest mark since 1979 in Antarctica.

Widespread drought and record heat destroyed at least 20 percent of Russia’s 2012 wheat crop. Corn, wheat and other crops were hard hit by extreme dryness in Eastern Europe and parts of the former Soviet Union.

Record floods swamped parts of Africa, Columbia, China, Pakistan and Australia. More than 36 inches of rain in less than 48 hours killed hundreds of people in late November in the Philippines. The rare late autumn super Typhoon Bopha had winds exceeding 200 mph and caused billions of dollars in damage.

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 U.S. alone may exceed $50 billion, far greater than the $14 billion in losses in 2011.

In terms of our own weather, snowfall earlier this week brought our seasonal total to nearly 36 inches at the airport. The normal is about 29 inches to date. Coeur d’Alene is close to 55 inches of snow for the season.

It appears that high pressure will bring us drier and milder weather over the next week. By the end of the month, we’ll have an increasing chance of rain and snow.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Randy Mann at, or go to for additional information.

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