2016 ranked as the United States’ second warmest year in 122 years of record keeping, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit — 2.9 degrees above the 20th century average and not far behind the warmest record of 55.3 F set in 2012.
“A super El Niño combined with higher-than-average North Pacific sea surface temperatures put a lot of heat into the Northern Hemisphere,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bob Smerbeck said.
“The Earth continues to warm and you throw a super El Niño on top of an already warm base line, you increase the chance of setting new record temperatures,” he said.
Virtually all states had annual average temperatures in the top 10 percent on record, according to the data.
Additionally, the average low temperature was 43.1 F, the highest on record, exceeding the previous value of 42.9 F set in 2012.
Six states recorded the highest average minimum temperature on record.
Despite this year’s notable warmth, Smerbeck said the odds are the United States will not set another record warm year in 2017. However, he explained that continued warming does demand that forecasters prepare for more extreme precipitation events.
“There has been an increase in water vapor with warming, so there is an increased chance to get heavy rain events that can catch people off guard. We have to be vigilant in forecasting those events,” he said.
This year, the contiguous U.S. average annual precipitation totaled 31.70 inches, 1.76 inches above the long-term average.
This made 2016 the 24th wettest year on record for the nation, and the fourth consecutive year with above-average precipitation.
Additionally, the U.S. experienced four inland flooding events with losses exceeding $1 billion each in 2016. Cumulatively, they incurred about $16 billion in losses.
2016 was also the first year since 1997 that inland flooding was the costliest disaster type of the seven categories tracked by NOAA and the first time that more than two inland flooding events caused losses exceeding $1 billion each.