The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says 2012 was a historical year for extreme weather that included drought, wildfires, hurricanes and storms, although tornado activity was below average. The U.S. Climate Extremes Index indicated that 2012 was the second most extreme year on record for the nation. The index, which evaluates extremes in temperature and precipitation, as well as landfalling tropical cyclones, was nearly twice the average value and second only to 1998.
"Most striking was the number of locations across the country that broke their average annual temperature record. These records were primarily driven by extremely warm maximum day time temperatures or daily highs, especially during the spring and summer months. More than a dozen of these locations also experienced their driest year on record. In those areas, the combination of the extreme warm and dry period resulted in a drought comparable to the drought episodes of the 1950s," says NOAA.