Between winters with barely any snow, very mild springs, and summers with intense, dry heat it comes as no surprise that 2012 was claimed to be hottest year on record for the continental U.S.
From National Geographic:
"2012 marks the warmest year on record for the contiguous U.S., with the year consisting of a record warm spring, the second warmest summer, the fourth warmest winter, and a warmer than average autumn," Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center at the U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said in a press release on Tuesday".
1998 was the last year that a heat record was broken, and like most records they are usually measured in a fraction of a degree. The 2012 record however was set by an increase in a full degree Fahrenheit taking the average temperature for the lower 48 states to an alarming 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit. New records were also set across the country with 34,008 daily high records compared to only 6,664 record lows set. All 48 states had above average temperatures; 19 states had their warmest year on record and 26 had one of their top ten warmest years on record.
So what did all this mean for agriculture?
With the severe heat it only makes sense that this year was the 15th driest for the nation. The drought affected 61% of the nation, particularly the agricultural Midwest and was most intense in July of 2012. On July 1st, crops in the Midwest were at their worst since 1988 and the heat wave in that one week set or tied 1,067 temperature records. This increased the price of corn and soybeans by 37% in only three weeks (!), causing a spike in global food prices and feed prices for meat producers.
While scientists agree that weather variability (which occurs each year) played a factor in the heat record, many cannot deny that the record could not have been set without the effects of global warming caused by the human release of greenhouse gases. Many also agree that years like 2012 will soon become the norm.
If this does become the norm, one can only think how it will continue to affect agriculture and our production of food. Supporting growers within your local food system will at least help you to avoid feeling the effects of food prices and keep them going during tough times like this past year of 2012.
Let us hope for the best. Have a good afternoon!