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Which Year Was Most Extreme?

February 21, 2013

By Paul Homewood





According to NCDC, 2012 was the second most extreme year, weather wise, for the CONUS, the most extreme year being 1998. As previously discussed, NCDC use six indicators to build up their “US Climate Extremes Index”:-



  1. Daytime temperatures.
  2. Night time temperatures.
  3. PDSI drought index.
  4. Extreme rainfall events.
  5. Unusually dry or wet spells.
  6. Landfalling tropical storms/hurricanes.


2012 came out first and second most extreme on the top 2 categories, respectively, and seventh on the PDSI index. On the other three indices, the year was well below average. In other words, the “extreme label” arose purely because temperatures were much higher than normal, (normal being the 1910-2012 average). Indeed, if the temperature indices had not been duplicated, the year would have dropped to 5th place.


However, a comparison with 1936 questions whether the temperature index is even measuring “extreme weather” in any meaningful way. From NCDC, the CONUS mean temperatures for each season are shown below for the two years, along with the Meteorological Year (Dec-Nov).


  1936 2012
Winter 28.04 36.42
Spring 52.30 56.18
Summer 73.86 73.74
Autumn 53.29 54.7
Annual 51.87 55.26


The following facts are worth noting:-

  • The winter in 1936 was the 2nd coldest on record. Only the winter of 1979 was colder.
  • The summer of 1936 was the hottest on record.
  • Annually, 2012 was warmest, whereas 1936 was ranked 72.

So, a very hot summer and very cold winter in 1936 cancelled each other out, to something about average! It is no surprise then that the “US Climate Extremes Index” for maximum temperature shows 1936 as one of the least extreme on record, while 2012 is top.




So, which year really was the more extreme?

  1. February 21, 2013 6:06 pm

    Reblogged this on Real Science and commented:
    Check out this scam from NOAA. The extreme heat and extreme cold of 1936 averaged out to be a mild year. On the other hand, 2012 was extreme because of the mild winter and spring. Enron accountants could learn a few things about fraud from NOAA climatologists.

  2. Sundance permalink
    February 21, 2013 7:03 pm

    That is stellar work Paul. It is obvious that any temperature extreme measurement needs to be broken down by season and all variances should be given the same sign and combined to determine the total annual value depicting extreme temperatures. NOAA needs to revisit this flawed indicator.

  3. Ben permalink
    February 21, 2013 8:26 pm

    Excellent observation.

  4. Rosco permalink
    February 21, 2013 8:27 pm

    Surely the scare campaign is that extreme equals hotter temperatures.

    Milder winter temperatures appear to be the result but this has not resulted in higher maximum temperatures.

    Averages are not a desirable comparison anytime – what does 14 or 15 degrees C average really mean when comparing summer in the sahara to winter in the antarctic anyway?

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