It’s official: 2012 was  the hottest year on record for the Lower 48, with temperatures averaging 3.2 degrees F above the 20th century average. According to the National Climatic Data Center's (NCDC) latest "State of the Climate" report, each state in the contiguous U.S. reported above-average annual temperatures for the year, and 19 states saw a record warm year.

The record year started with the fourth-warmest winter on record, and the third-smallest snow cover ever reported. The above-average temperatures continued with the warmest March, fourth-warmest April and second-warmest May. These record-setting spring months led into a record-setting summer, when an estimated 99.1 million people experience 10 or more days of at least 100 degrees F.

The official announcement is far from surprising. In December, the NCDC announced a 99.7 percent chance of 2012 breaking the record as the hottest year for the Lower 48.

"For 2012 not to be record-warm, December would have to be unprecedented," Jake Crouch, scientist at the NCDC told NBC News in a report available here. "December temperatures would need to be more than 1 degree F colder than the coldest December on record, which occurred in 1983."

The year was also a historic year for extreme weather, second to 1998 in the agency’s Extreme Index. 2012 certainly was a year to remember:




the number of consecutive 12-month periods ending in 2012 now make up the nine warmest in the CONUS record.


the number of all-time record high maximum temperatures known to be tied or broken in the United States.


the number of all-time record low minimum temperatures known to be tied or broken in the United States.


the number of states that had their warmest annual period.


the percent of the contiguous U.S. that was experiencing drought in September, a record in the 14-year United States Drought Monitor history.


the number (in millions) of people that experienced 10 or more days of temperatures that reached or exceeded 100°F.


the number of feet of storm surge from Post-tropical storm Sandy measured at The Battery in New York City Harbor.


the number (millions) of acres that burned due to wildfire in the CONUS during 2012.


the new all-time warmest temperature observed in South Carolina, set June 28 in Columbia.


the number of named storms, tying 2011, 2010, 1995, and 1887 as the third busiest year for North Atlantic tropical cyclones.


the number of consecutive days (June 24th and December 31st 2012) without a tornado-related fatality. Second to October 15th 1986 and February 28th 1987 (197 days).


the number of consecutive months with contiguous U.S. temperatures above long-term average (June 2011-September 2012). Longest such streak on record.

Source: NOAA "State of the Climate" report, released Jan. 8, 2012

There were 11 disasters in 2012 reaching $1 billion in losses, including Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Isaac and tornado outbreaks in the Great Plains, Texas and Southeast/Ohio Valley.

Read more from the “State of the Climate” report here.

"During the winter season, the jet stream tended to stay further north of the U.S.-Canadian border, so that limited colder outbreaks in the country. It also limited precipitation. So that led to a warm and dry winter season, and that persisted through the spring," Jake Crouch, an NCDC climate scientist told NBC News. "That warm and dry spring and winter laid the groundwork for the drought we had this summer... When we have drought, it tends to drive daytime temperatures upward."

Read, “NOAA: 2012 was warmest year ever for US, second most 'extreme.”