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2012 was warmest year in U.S. on record

6:21 AM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS News) They've never seen anything like it: Government scientists said Tuesday they're surprised by a jump in temperature that made 2012 the warmest year on record in the lower 48 states. Changes in temperature usually come in tiny fractions of a degree. But the average for 2012 -- 55.3 degrees -- beat the 1998 record, by one full degree.

2012 was also a near-record for weather disasters including drought, wildfires and storms. There were 11 disasters last year that topped $1 billion in damage each. Only 1998 was worse.

Every state from coast to coast was affected. The west had devastating wildfires. In Colorado, the most expensive wildfire in the state's history destroyed more than 650 homes. And New Mexico's largest wildfire on record burned more than a quarter of a million acres.

In March, tornadoes that tore across Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky left 42 people dead.

In late August, Hurricane Isaac came ashore near the mouth of the Mississippi: Nine deaths and 4,700 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In October, superstorm Sandy brought a record storm surge to the New York and New Jersey coastlines. About 131 people were killed and 650,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. More than eight million homes and businesses lost power -- some of them for weeks.

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