Originally Published: January 3, 2013 12:01 a.m.
The year 2012 was the 5th warmest and 9th driest on record for Prescott, National Weather Service officials said Wednesday.
The average daily high temperature was the second warmest on record, while the average daily low temperature tied 2002 for being the eighth warmest on record, said meteorologist Chris Outler of the Weather Service office in Flagstaff.
"The state as a whole has been warmer than normal by a long shot," Outler said earlier.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) expects 2012 to be the hottest on record for the Lower 48 states, although NOAA hasn't tallied all the numbers yet. After compiling January through November temperatures, NOAA announced it was "virtually certain" to be a record.
National records date back to 1850, while Prescott records date to 1898.
Worldwide temperatures this year also are expected to be well above average. An area of Arctic sea ice larger than the United States melted this year.
The average temperature for the year in Prescott was 56.1 degrees compared to the long-term average of 53.4 that dates back to 1898 in the city.
This year was only a half-degree off the all-time heat records. The hottest years on record in Prescott were 2003 and 1943 with average temperatures of 56.6 degrees.
The average high temperature for 2012 was 71.9 degrees compared to the long-term average of 69.4. The all-time record was 73.8 degrees in 1934.
The average low temperature for 2012 was 40.4 degrees compared to the long-term average of 37.3 degrees. The all-time record-high low was 41.9 degrees in 2003.
Dry and therefore cloudless weather contributed to the heat.
Prescott received only 59 percent of its average precipitation in 2012. No rain fell in May or June, with the city recording a 68-day dry spell until monsoon rain arrived on Independence Day. The monsoon started off strong but ended up with below-average rains.
Only two months recorded above-average precipitation in Prescott this year, March and July. March's precipitation all came in one huge St. Patrick's Weekend storm that dropped 10 inches of snow in Prescott. March was the hottest March on record for the U.S.
Prescott's 2012 snowfall of 14.2 inches was only 60 percent of average, another indicator of a warming climate.
Arizona has been in the grips of a drought since 1998, and nationally this year the drought was the worst since the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s.
La Niña weather patterns didn't help precipitation during the last two winters in the Southwest. La Niña originates with cooler-than-average temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. That pushes the jet stream and its storms north of Arizona.
Forecasters last summer saw early signs of an El Niño influence this winter, but it didn't pan out.
All of Arizona remains in at least a moderate drought, while much of the nation's midsection is still in the grips of exceptional drought. NOAA expects the drought to persist or intensify across the Midwest and Southwest through March.
The three-month forecast is calling for above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the Southwest.
A recent projection by the World Bank showed Earth's temperatures are expected to increase by as much as 7.2 degrees by 2100. The concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide has jumped 20 percent since 2000, according to a U.N. report, and 40 percent since the Industrial Age began.
Many scientists say extreme weather events, such as Hurricane Sandy on the U.S. East Coast this year, will become more frequent as the Earth warms. The country's wildfire season was the third worst on record as 9.2 million acres burned, and the average wildfire size was the highest on record.
More than 97 percent of the scientists who publish peer-reviewed research say that global warming is real and man-made.