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07/10/2013

3,527 weather records shattered in the U.S. in 2012. It's true

Sandy

A beach front home damaged by Superstorm Sandy is tagged to be torn down in Manotoloking, New Jersey. Officials say at least 50 homes are scheduled to be demolished. Getty Images. 

Toronto’s epic rain on Monday broke a long-standing record: 126 millimetres of rain in a single day, more than the previous record of 121 millimetres set in 1954 when Hurricane Hazel invaded southern Ontario.

But hey, it was just one record.

In the U.S., 3,527 monthly weather records were broken for heat, rain and snow in 2012, according to the National Climatic Data Centre.

Some of those records had been sitting for more than three decades.

NCDC called 2012 another year of “unparalleled extremes and disastrous weather events.”

Here are some examples:

The U.S. saw the worst drought in 50 years across the country’s breadbasket, with over 1,300 counties across 29 states declared drought disaster areas.

Ferocious wildfires burned over 9.2 million acres in the U.S. “The average size of the fires set an all-time record of 165 acres per fire, exceeding the prior decade’s 2001-2010 average of approximately 90 acres/fire.”

Then there was Hurricane Sandy. Its surge height (13.88 feet) broke the all-time record in New York Harbor.

The centre says the frequency and intensity of some very “costly types of extreme events are likely to worsen with climate change, as temperatures continue to rise and affect weather patterns.”

The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in its 2012 report that short, powerful rains, hurricanes, heat waves and droughts will intensify. By the end of this century, the average global temperature could rise anywhere between 1.6 and 4.4 degrees C, it said.

Raveena Aulakh is the Toronto Star's environment reporter. She is intrigued by climate change and its impact, now and long-term, and wildlife. Follow her on Twitter @raveenaaulakh

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