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Not only has the data shown the first half of 2012 to be the hottest year ever recorded, but the annual climate report for 2011 has scientists referring to 2011 as "the year of extremes".
On Tuesday, the NOAA released the 2011 State of the Climate Report which was compiled by 378 scientists from 48 countries around the world and examined the extreme weather events that took place in 2011.
For the first time, this report was accompanied by a separate analysis explaining how climate change likely influenced a selection of key events from droughts in the U.S. and Africa to extreme cold and warm spells in Britian.
"2011 will be remembered as a year of extreme events, both in the United States and around the world," said Kathryn Sullivan, deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.As sobering as that report may be, I fear it will be nothing compared to what we have seen in the first half of 2012.
"Every weather event that happens now takes place in the context of a changing global environment," she said, adding the reports shed light on "what has happened so we can all prepare for what is to come."
The average temperature in June in the United States was 2° above the 20th century average with a jaw dropping 170 high temperature records tied or broken which contributed to the warmest 12 month period the nation has experienced since recordkeeping began in 1895.
Florida enjoyed 6.17 inches above average rainfall which was entirely due to tropical storm Debby. Maine, Oregon and Washington also had a wet June. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of July 3rd, 56% of the contiguous U.S. experienced drought conditions which marked a record for the 12 years record keeping of the monitor.
The very dry, warm, and windy weather created ideal wildfire conditions. Nationwide, wildfires scorched over 1.3 million acres, the second most on record during June.
The US Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) which tracks the highest and lowest 10% of temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclone extremes across the U.S. showed a record large 44% between January - June 2012. This represents over two times the average value.
My source for most of the above information came from NOAA - State of the Climate
Not all weather related news is dire. Wheat crop looks golden despite ongoing drought:
“If there’s a bright spot this year, it’s the wheat,” said Dave Nelson, insurance specialist with 1st Farm Credit Services, Oregon. “The yield and other indicators have been above average.”
The reason is, Nelson said, that the rains came when the wheat needed it most — early this season.
Wheat is planted in the fall and grows in the spring.
“It needs moisture early. With the early spring it got that,” he said. “Wheat is a dry land crop and can handle the drought.”
Crop technology helps limit corn losses in drought:
Almost a third of the nation's corn crop has been damaged by heat and drought, and a number of farmers in the hardest hit areas of the Midwest have cut down their crops just midway through the growing season. But the nation could still see one of the largest harvests in U.S. history, thanks to new plant varieties developed to produce more corn per acre and better resist drought.
This year's loss, so far, is expected to be half that — one reason why people like Bill Gates believe better crop technology will be the key to feeding the world as the population grows and climate changes.
Jeff Schussler, a senior research manager for DuPont Pioneer, said the company's studies show corn hybrids today can produce 50 percent more bushels of corn per inch of water than those of 50 years ago. Working with genes that affect root and leaf development and plant reproduction, scientists also have created much more stable corn plants that can withstand a wider variety of climate conditions, he said.
"All these hybrids that have been produced in the last few years are built for drought tolerance so we have a little more hope that they will be able to withstand some of this heat, more so than they would have say 10 years ago," said Garry Niemeyer, who grows corn and soybeans in Auburn, Ill., and is president of the National Corn Growers Association.
Soybeans still hanging on:
Soybean plants on most fields remain in a “holding pattern” with leaves retaining their color but with few flowers forming pods in the drier fields. “It will be a few weeks before we can get a handle on what pod numbers might turn out to be,” Nafziger said.