In recent years weather events have whiplashed between the extremes of heat and cold, flooding and drought. Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases—largely from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas—have loaded up in the atmosphere, heating the planet and pushing humanity onto a climatic seesaw of weather irregularities. High-temperature records in many places are already being broken with startling frequency, and hotter temperatures are in store. Without a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel use, we will veer even further away from the “normal” temperatures and weather patterns that civilization is adapted to.
The world has warmed by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degrees Celsius) since the Industrial Revolution, with most of the rise in temperature coming since the 1970s. Such rapid warming is unprecedented over at least 20,000 years. The average global temperature in 2012 was 58.2 degrees Fahrenheit (14.56 degrees Celsius). This sets it among the 10 warmest years on record—all of which, according to NASA data dating back to 1880, have occurred in the last 14 years. (See data.)
The two headline-dominating weather events of 2012 both occurred in the United States: the intense summertime drought and heat that baked the country’s midsection and Superstorm Sandy, which clobbered the East Coast in late October. Overall, 2012 was the hottest year in U.S. history, topping the twentieth-century average by more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit. ….(more).