Jan 4, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Lower 48 states likely had hottest December on record

Departure from average temperatures, Dec. 2021
Data: NOAA; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The Lower 48 states likely had their hottest December on record, new data shows, with numerous locations in the Central States, South and East breaking previous benchmarks by large margins.

Why it matters: Winter is the fastest-warming season in much of the U.S., with widespread impacts for snow sports, drought and fire weather risks.

By the numbers: Temperatures averaged across the entire state of Texas make December 2021 that state’s warmest, state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon said in a statement.

  • It is also likely to be the first month to exceed the 20th-century average by more than 10°F, which is a large margin for a monthly record that Nielsen-Gammon pinned in part on climate change.
  • Tulsa and Oklahoma City had their warmest December on record, as did Baton Rouge, Louisiana. East Coast locations were unusually mild as well, with cities from Washington to Boston having a top 5 warmest December.

Threat level: December concluded a year of deadly extreme weather events with yet another billion-dollar disaster, with Colorado’s most damaging wildfire on record occurring on Dec. 30.

  • Scientists say there's reason to expect even more menacing extreme weather disasters in 2022 after last year brought the uncomfortable realization that even scientists' worst-case scenarios don't fully capture what the climate system is already capable of.

Go deeper: Extreme weather could get even worse in 2022

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