Temperatures across the Midwest and Northeast are expected to be above normal through December, and if they remain even near average 2012 will be the warmest year on record in the U.S.
Most of the lower 48 states from the Rocky Mountains to the U.S. East Coast, with the exception of the Deep South and West Coast, may have higher-than-normal temperatures through year’s end, according to the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
The arrival of a weak El Nino, a warming of the central Pacific Ocean, later this year may also raise the chances that warmer conditions carry over into the winter season, said Huug van den Dool, seasonal forecaster at the center.
“I won’t say it will be as extreme as last year,” van den Dool said during a conference call with reporters. “Chances are it will be above normal because that is the long-term trend.”
Increased production coupled with warmer-than-normal weather last winter helped push natural gas prices to a 10-year low in the U.S. and by April made it the worst performer on Standard & Poor’s GSCI commodity index.
Temperatures during the 2011-2012 heating season, from October through March, were 3.8 degrees above average, making it the second-warmest level for the period on record after 1999-2000, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The first eight months of 2012 the warmest for the U.S. on records going back to 1895, and the period was among the 10 warmest for 33 states, according to the climate center. Even if temperatures remain near average from September through December, “2012 will be the warmest year on record,” said Jake Crouch, climate scientist at the National Climatic Data Center.
In addition to issuing the seasonal outlook, NOAA scientists today also reported Arctic sea ice has reached its lowest level since 1979, when continuous satellite coverage of the North Pole became possible.
While Arctic ice reaches its lowest extent in September, the decrease in area had already broken the old record, set in 2007, last month, said Walt Meier, research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
Meier said the loss of the ice cap may have larger climate implications because the polar regions dissipate heat that gathers at the equator.