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2005: A Year of Extremes

Weather Set Records, Wreaked Havoc Worldwide in 2005

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Weather went wild in 2005—in the United States and around the world—with a record downpour in the Nevada desert, glaciers melting in Greenland, an unprecedented series of major hurricanes and tropical storms in the Atlantic, and the worst drought in a century in the Amazon rainforest. The cost in property losses, environmental damage and human lives is still being calculated and may never be fully understood.

Warming Trend
Globally, 2005 was the warmest year in more than a century, according to NASA. Unlike most other estimates, the NASA analysis included the Arctic. Preliminary data gathered by scientists at the National Climatic Data Center placed 2005 within a fraction of being the warmest year on record, second only to 1998, when surface temperatures worldwide were increased by an extremely strong El Niño event. El Niño was not a significant factor in 2005, but that didn’t stop things from heating up.

Record Temperatures
At least 214 U.S. climate records were broken or tied in 2005, and wildfires burned across 8.64 million acres of U.S. land, nearly a quarter million more than the previous record set in 2000.

Alaska set new records for temperature, rain and snow repeatedly throughout the year. That’s because Alaska is getting hotter from global warming and its permafrost is melting, according to Jay Lawrimore, the chief of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center, who spoke to Knight-Ridder Newspapers about the phenomenon. Lawrimore said it was too early to tell whether other extreme weather events in 2005 could be attributed to global warming.

Extreme Weather
In a preliminary annual report, the National Climatic Data Center declared 2005 the third worst year for extreme weather in U.S. history. For the first 11 months of 2005, the U.S. had an extreme-climate index figure of 35. Only two years had higher index scores: 1998 with an extreme-climate index figure of 42, and 1934 with a score of 37. The average annual score is 20.

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
The Atlantic hurricane season gave rise to three Category 5 hurricanes—Katrina, Rita and Wilma—and 26 named storms (the previous record, set in 1933, was 21 named storms), plus one more after the season officially ended, for a total of 27. There were 14 hurricanes altogether in 2005 (the previous record for a single season was 12).

The only kind of extreme weather event that seemed to lose momentum in 2005 was tornadoes. In 2005, there were only half as many killer tornados in the U.S. as in recent years.

Read the Full Report:
State of the Climate -- National Climatic Data Center

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