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Cold comfort: US weather in 2014 not too hot, disastrous

January 8, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) — On a day when much of the U.S. struggled with cold, U.S. meteorologists said America’s weather in 2014 wasn’t really that bad.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that the U.S. average temperature in 2014 was half a degree warmer than normal and weather was less disastrous and drought-struck than previous years. While 2014 was warmer than 2013 in the lower 48 states, it was still only the 34th warmest on record.

That contrasts with the experience of the world as a whole. Globally, it will likely go down as the warmest year on record.

Japan’s meteorological agency has already calculated 2014 as the warmest year worldwide. NOAA and NASA will announce global 2014 figures next week, but data through November point toward a new record. The U.S. is only 2 percent of the world’s surface and temperatures are more dictated by weather than climate, said Pennsylvania State University atmospheric scientist Michael Mann.

“It was a strange year for the U.S.,” said University of Illinois climate scientist Donald Wuebbles. “The extreme warmth and droughts in the western U.S. and the extreme cold winter and cooler summer in the East and Midwest were largely driven by blocking patterns at high latitudes in the Arctic.”

Wuebbles said those blocking patterns meant warmer Alaskan temperatures and cold invasions south— like last January’s deep chill.

It was the 18th straight year the U.S. was warmer than the 20th-century average.

Last year there were eight weather disasters that caused more than $1 billion in damage, according to NOAA. The last five years that averaged 10 such billion-dollar disasters.

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Online:

NOAA’s summary of 2014 U.S. weather: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info

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Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears

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