You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 12:10 p.m.

Ann Arbor joins continental U.S. in posting hottest year on record in 2012

By Cindy Heflin

It was already clear that 2012 was a hot one, both in Ann Arbor and across the country, but the official confirmation that it was the hottest year on record adds to the growing body of data indicating that we are in the midst of a warming climate, University of Michigan experts said Wednesday.

The average temperature of 55.3 degrees in the contiguous 48 states last year was what Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters called an “astonishing” 1 degree warmer than the previous record, set in 1998. It was also 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. The records go back to 1895.


A shriveled apple lies on the ground at Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan. The orchard lost most of its apples in 2012 after an extremely warm March brought out fruit buds, which were then killed by a freeze.

Melanie Maxwell |

“It’s a dual record. It’s not only the warmest year, ... it’s the biggest increase ever,” said Henry Pollack, professor emeritus of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan. “This is the first time that it is a whole degree above the previous record.”

Across the country, 19 states had record warm years.

Ann Arbor had one too, but the record was more modest than the national one. The average temperature for 2012 in Ann Arbor was 53.5 degrees, .2 degree above the previous record set in 1998, said Dennis Kahlbaum, University of Michigan weather observer. The average temperature was 3.7 degrees above the normal average of 49.8 Kahlbaum said.

The Ann Arbor area also posted record warm average temperatures in March and July and set 15 daily extreme high records. Ann Arbor's records go back to 1880.

While the 2012 data for the rest of the globe is not in yet and a single year is not by itself evidence of a warming climate, Pollack said it’s clear that the earth is experiencing a warming trend. The last 20 years have included 17 or 18 of the warmest years on record, he said.

Pollack, who serves as a scientific adviser to former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and contributed to the climate reports issued by the United Nations-sponsored panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Gore, said even deniers of climate change are backing away from the assertion that the earth is not warming, although there’s still debate about whether man’s activities are to blame.

Thumbnail image for 081312_Henry_Pollack.jpg

Henry Pollack

But he said while natural phenomena are always affecting the climate, scientific data has shown such factors do not account for the warming we’re experiencing. On the other hand, scientific measures have shown humans are pumping ever-more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

“The reality of it is that the climate is changing and humans have a lot to do with it,” he said.

Andrew Hoffman, director of the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, said a year such as 2012, which included a devastating hurricane on the East Coast and weather-related destruction of crops in Michigan and elsewhere, tends to make believers out of those who doubt the climate is changing.

“People respond to what is salient and vivid,” he said.

Many people doubt evidence of climate change because it comes from people they don’t trust, people like Gore and other politicians and institutions they see as liberal, Hoffman said.

But he said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave credibility to the issue of climate change when he expressed his concerns about it following Hurricane Sandy. He also noted that Bloomberg Businessweek published an issue after the storm with the cover headline, “It’s global warming, stupid.”

It’s worth pointing out, however, that some experts dismissed the notion that climate change added to the force of Hurricane Sandy. As the storm was taking aim at the East Coast, the New York Times quoted Martin Hoerling, a meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, saying that it likely was natural forces that made Sandy so monstrous.

“In this case, the immediate cause is most likely little more than the coincidental alignment of a tropical storm with an extratropical storm,” he said.

He went on to say that climate change is not expected to have an impact on the frequency of such storms.

Fox News included Hoerling’s quotes in a post-Sandy article headlined "Scientists dispute politicians’ claims that global warming grew Sandy."

But Pollack said a warming climate will have big consequences for the earth.

“It will lead to destabilization of the world’s ice and rising sea level. It makes an ordinary storm a catastrophic storm.”

The good news, he said, is that if man caused this problem, he can do something about it. He said this is an opportunity for the world to remake its industrial infrastructure to rely on a fuel that’s not carbon-based.

“The countries that seize on that will be the really successful economic powerhouses of the 21st century.”



Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 9:25 p.m.

Fox News has an editorial policy that reporters are not to mention climate change without presenting an opposing point of view. So, rather than keeping the news and editorial policies separate, they introduce their editorial point of view into every news blurb on the subject. The really convincing data are not isolated observations (5 inches of rain in Jerusalem, 57 degrees tomorrow in A2, or even Hurricane Sandy), but the systematic analysis of LOTS of data. This includes things like that last year was the hottest year ever globally and that all 10 of the hottest years every recorded have occurred within the past 15 years. These HARD DATA are supported by STRONG SUPPORTING EVIDENCE includng warming of the oceans, rising of the oceans, and melting glaciers. And it all fits precisely with the predictions that can be calculated from the ongoing rise in atmospheric CO2. There are hardly any qualified scientists who doubt that warming is definite, caused by humans, and a serious problem. These are scientists, who bring you computers, space exploration, medical advances, etc. Not wackos like newscasters on Fox. I think this is very serious stuff. We need to encourage our leaders to take on this problem.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:17 p.m.

IF a hurricane is not a natural Force What is it? MARTIN HURLEY? sandy watered Manhattan in case we forgot!


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

Posting anything that goes against the " Barnamites " undying belief that it is man that controls nature is just relieving ones self into the wind...a waste of time..when winter finally bites us and they pedal around in the snow showing mother nature thier control more power to em....


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 9:42 a.m.

What's happening to our winter? Yesterday evening (Jan. 10) I walked outside to wait for a taxi: it was raining (unusual, not unheard of in January). But then - I almost ran into a large spider web - with the living spider hanging right before my eyes! I'm 68 and have never seen a live spider in its web on ANY day in January here. Today's forecast high is FIFTY FOUR degrees and tomorrow's is FIFTY SEVEN - records will be shattered on both days. Scratch a so-called "climate warming skeptic" and you'll find a guy who just likes burning fossil fuels too much. The worst by far of this bunch are the ones who base their "skepticism" on political beliefs and scoff at scientific climate findings (which started 100 years ago). They're trying to delegitimize science and replace it with political beliefs. This is a direct measure of their intelligence and reliability as sources of truth and real world facts. Compare the Scientific Method to the Political Method and you'll see that the Scientific Method is recognized world wide while the Political Method is peculiar ONLY to the American political scene (which is full of deceptions, lies and propaganda). This is why some other countries are already ahead of the U.S. in fighting climate change. Here- we're still distracted and bogged down in arguments which go on and on without producing any progress or benefit. This is the result of the American love affair with political matters and shows what the term "waste of time" means. Going for a less harmful energy source: can't really hurt us, can it? The planet is warming - as shown by world-wide temperature averages. But the "conservative side" says that this or that country is having colder weather (this winter, maybe, not last winter or the average winter there over the last 25 years). Stop wasting time, start thinking rationally. Let the "other side" win - since it appears they're right this time.

Macabre Sunset

Mon, Jan 14, 2013 : 10:08 p.m.

It's pretty cold in California. Global cooling?


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 1:23 p.m.

Wow!!! You give me hope in the human race! I've never agreed with you...until now. Yes, the debate is over. This, however, is a pyrrhic victory, as it could mean our demise. Thank you for cheering me up before class. :)

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:15 a.m.

Mars' carbon dioxide ice cap is sublimating as that planet warms; Mars also is in the Solar System. In the 1950's I learned that Earth was coming out of an ice age due to insolation variation. Then Harold Hill (Gary Conservatory of Music, gold medal class of '05) warned us of the magnitude of the disaster awaiting us if we did not give him all of our wealth and liberty. Yes, Earth is currently warming. No, that is not cause to enslave our great grandchildren to pharaoh.

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:28 a.m.

We need Al Gorezeera's comments about this so I know what to believe.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:31 p.m.

Why not ask Rotana? Would a media outlet owned by Saudi royalty and Rupert Murdoch be more convincing to you?


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:09 a.m.

Gotta see Core. One interesting movie about climate change and what happens when the earth decides not to spin anymore. Otherwise, IMO? We are too close to Hell mi) to get to Heaven (pa).


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 5:19 p.m.

SEE "CRUDE" check out what FRACKING is going to do.hurt nature and ALl our Drinking Waters etc etc .Worth the monsanto..

Unusual Suspect

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Or compromise - Halfway (MD)

Superior Twp voter

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

You "global warmers" are waaaay behind the curve already! "Five inches of snow fell in Jerusalem" lately, per USA Today. Evidence that "global cooling" is already upon us. Oh, yea baby. Cooling. That's the "new" it.

Macabre Sunset

Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 6:51 a.m.

What's unprecedented? It must be nice to know that everything we ever need to know happened in the last 130 years. Bible "scholars" often feel the same way about knowledge limitations.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3 a.m.

Yes! GLOBAL climate CHANGE. Weather patterns are changing. Unprecedented things have been happening with great frequency. On balance, however, the earth is warming. Look at the polar ice caps for crying out loud! Almost everything points to dramatic climate change. Take your collective heads out of the sand. There is an overwhelming consensus among the scientific community about this. Now a days, there are barely any dissenters, except for conservatives in this country.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 8:54 p.m.

The surface area of planet Earth is about 200 million square miles. 87 million barrels of oil are consumed worldwide every day ( 19 million in the U.S. So every year effectively 158 barrels of oil are dumped over every square mile on planet Earth in the form of particles. Downtown Ann Arbor is about 1 square mile area so about 158 barrels are dumped there every year, too. Spray the city each year with that and in time it will look pretty dirty. Not including the billions of tons of carbon gases from coal, natural gas, forest fires, volcanoes, etc. it should be pretty obvious to people that the pollution blanket might eventually impact the global weather some day. Or maybe not.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:17 p.m.

The atmosphere is not self-contained. I'd hesitate to use the word "obvious" with respect to the atmosphere, because it can't be replicated in a laboratory - it's far too complex. Yet if you want grant money these days, you'd better make that claim.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

This happened with democrat in the white house?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

I guess some scientists will say anything. Common sense tells us that a rise in sea level will cause more water to flood- Duh Climate change may not have created Sandy but it for sure made it worse. I guess Pollack has not been to Ann Arbor- No good news, the solar panels are an eyesore. Better to ruin the planet with coal.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Fact: Climate always changes. Another fact: the changes are not always warmer. A third fact: While the USA recorded the hottest year, not so in Asia or Eurpoe. December in Asia was the coldest in 28 years (ironically found that news on The last two weeks in all of Euro has gone back in the Deep Freeze. It recently snowed in Lebonon. Case closed.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:15 p.m.

And how far back does that go? Why wouldn't it be generally getting a little hotter so close to the end of an Ice Age?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 8:31 p.m.

Case closed, did you not read the article? Globally, we've had 17 or 18 of the hottest years recorded in the last 20. Case closed.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:09 p.m.

We all know climate change is just a liberal idea invented by MSNBC and the liberal media (sarcasm of course)

Roy Munson

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:09 p.m.

Global warming was retired. Then it became climate change. Is that retired too? I have been hearing climate disruption recently.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

See how it was changed, right here: Luntz advises that, "'Climate change' is less frightening than 'global warming.' ... While global warming has catastrophic connotations attached to it, climate change suggests a more controllable and less emotional challenge" (p. 142). "...despite years of intensive study by and near-universal scientific agreement that global warming is happening and that human beings are at least contributing to it, Luntz urges his readers to assert that the country needs more accurate, "up-to-date" information before deciding to take action. By coaching his clients and allies to portray the scientific community as divided on the issue when it is not, they can block action on the problem while appearing well intentioned." Are you following Franks methods?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

The world's climate is complex, some area's warm some cool due to shifting patterns in currents etc.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6:05 p.m.

There's only one acceptable viewpoint in Ann Arbor regarding climate change.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:27 p.m.

The one accepted by just about every major scientific group in the world?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

Yep, the truth.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

The one based on facts.

Top Cat

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 6 p.m.

So Mr. Pollack, will you stake your reputation and predict exactly what average temperatures will be 5 years from now?

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Ah, but when we had a very snowy winter three years ago, the same "scientists" who are desperate to pin any climate change on mankind were saying that their models indicate that in a warmer climate you will get more snowfall, not less. In other words, the Ivory Tower mind-meld, no matter what the observation, will twist the data to use that observation as "proof" of their theory - the only theory these days that gets government grant money. In that way, AGW is more like a cult than science.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:19 p.m.

kmgeb: The winter of 2011-12 was just ourside the top 20 least snowiest winers. The three previous winters ranked well in the top 10 snowiest with more than 60 inches in each of those winters. Lest we forget?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 7:12 p.m.

Why would it be "staking your reputation" to report the output of a complex numerical model? Per Wikipedia: The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." He would be presenting a hypothses, which will involve furthter observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing. That is just how it works. His efforts are merely a step in the process of basic scientific method. I would ask when has anyone, ever been "exaclty" right? If you believe in certain religions, they tell us the answer is never, as only one has attained that status. So why hold him to principle or standard that can never be met? It appears easier to shot the messager than better understand the message, or better yet the field of study. One observation I have is that I have had to use my snow blower only once in 2012/2013, and after nearly 50 years in SE Michigan is not the norm as I can recall. A very short term observation for sure, but disheartening if you like winter. Does BP, Shell, BoA, or Chase ever get held to being exactly right?

Roy Munson

Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 5:51 p.m.

Well it is a good thing that $1.5M worth of windmills are going to be installed at AA High Schools to serve as little more than a monument to this disasterous problem!


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 2:06 a.m.

At least we can blow hot air towards Canada?


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 5:34 p.m.

It irks me so much when people on this fourm claim the Earth is cooling. It is no hoax, nor is it a vast liberal conspiracy so Al gore can make more money. I wish we were wrong about climate change, but we wern't. We were right all all along.


Fri, Jan 11, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

TDW: The myth you cite is a ...myth. -There was no scientific consensus in the 1970s that the Earth was headed into an imminent ice age. Indeed, the possibility of anthropogenic warming dominated the peer-reviewed literature even then.- As to the "climate change vs global warming", it was Frank Luntz that suggested the change, not "liberals". You are being lied to by somebody.


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 9:59 p.m.

Al Gore is making money from it and he said it was caused by man.Now it's called climate change.The climate has been changing ever since the earth was created.A few years ago the " experts " said we were going into another ice age.