Last year was the second warmest in recorded history across most of the U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday ― yet another sign that the planet is already feeling the effects of a rapidly changing climate.
Average temperatures across the entirety of the lower 48 states were nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, the agency said. Alaska fared even worse: NOAA described the state as “baked,” with temperatures skyrocketing almost 6 degrees above average.
“On the statewide level, 2016 was a year of temperature and precipitation extremes,” the agency said. “Every state in the union had an average annual temperature that was among the warmest seven of their historical records, and all but Iowa, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Utah had one of their warmest five years.”
It’s the 20th consecutive year readings around the country were above the 20th century temperature average, which is used as a barometer to monitor global warming.
NOAA said 34 cities, including Houston, New Orleans, Cleveland and Atlanta, saw their warmest years on record.
Researchers also found the second highest number of weather and climate-related disasters in any one year. A total of 15 such events ― including Hurricane Matthew, inland flooding, droughts and wildfires ― killed 138 people and cost more than $46 billion.
The confirmation comes on the heels of year of troubling climate change-related milestones. The 10 lowest years of Arctic sea ice have all occurred in the past decade. Seas are rising at the fastest rate in the last 28 centuries. And in 2016, 11 of 12 months set new high-temperature records.
President Barack Obama has tried to cement parts of his environmental legacy in the waning months of his administration. He has protected vast swaths of public land, permanently blocked Arctic and Atlantic drilling and authored articles urging for the continued investment in clean energy.
But despite those moves and the continued evidence of a warming world, many scientists worry action taken to tackle climate change will falter under President-elect Donald Trump, a man who has called the phenomenon a hoax and threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris climate agreement.