Data Shows 2011 Was a Year of Weather Extremes

by Erica Peterson on January 20, 2012

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has released an analysis of the past year of climate data, and it was a year of record-breaking weather, both in Kentucky and across the United States.

Last year was a year of incredibly destructive weather events. Fourteen of them caused more than a billion dollars in damage, including many of the tornados that swept through the Midwest last spring and the Mississippi River’s flooding during the summer.

In the Ohio River Valley, the year was the wettest ever on record, while areas of the South had droughts. NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch says that disparity is partly to blame on atmospheric conditions like La Niña, a natural periodic cooling of the Pacific Ocean’s tropical waters.

“There’s a lot of inter-annual climate variability and one of those is El Niño and La Niña, and that played a role this year,” Crouch said. “The storm track was further north than it normally is. So that brought storms into the Ohio Valley while they were missing the southern plains and Texas.”

La Niña also resulted in slightly lower temperatures than recent years, but Crouch says it’s not a long-term cooling trend. He says it’s hard to pinpoint any particular year or event on climate change.

“But with the wetness across the northeast and in the Ohio Valley, that is what is we would be expecting with global climate change, and a drying across the southern plains,” he said. “So what we see this year is consistent with what we would expect.”

La Niña is predicted to last until early summer, so the spring will likely be another rainy one.

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