In 2012, Manhattan experienced the seventh warmest year on record by average temperature and the sixth warmest by average high temperature. Several daily temperature records also were broken through the year, but not all were record highs.
“What I’m looking at is we have a whole lot of variability in our records,” said Mary Knapp, state climatologist. “I look at interesting differences, and the interesting difference is on heat in the spring.”
Knapp said the average temperature for March was 13 degrees above normal, and six records for highest daily lows were broken. While the low temperatures were higher than normal in March, none of the daily highs reached record-breaking levels for the month.
January was the biggest month for record-breaking high temperatures, with two days early in the month seeing unusually warm weather. The next daily high was not broken until late in the spring on May 26. And despite extensive drought in the summer, the last record daily high for the year wasn’t broken until November.
Knapp said 2012 saw an all-time record for earliest last frost, which is not surprising with March being as warm as it was. The last frost was on Mar. 10. The growing season lasted 211 days, with the first frost covering the ground in early October. Knapp said the early start to the growing season does not affect the end of it, with frost in 2012 hitting the ground at about the normal time. The problem is that the plants usually are not prepared for the “on-time” frost, and it kills off vegetation.
Knapp said even though the spring was decidedly warm, the summer was close to normal in temperature. The fall, on the other hand, was actually cooler than normal. She said winter saw another rise above normal temperatures - not as high as spring, but enough to cause a mild winter.
Aside from record temperatures, the precipitation has been unusually low. Total precipitation for the year was 21.88 inches, which was almost 13.74 inches below the average of 35.62. That put 2012 at the eighth driest year on record for Manhattan.
It was also the eighth lowest year on record for snowfall. Knapp said snowfall for the entire year - 5.3 inches - was the amount that would normally fall in the month of December alone. (While Manhattan saw 3 inches of snow on Dec. 31, it will not be included in 2012 data, Knapp said.) Dec. 20 had the most snow of any day in 2012 at 2.8 inches, and December was the month with the greatest snowfall.
The greatest daily rainfall happened in June with 2 inches. That little bit of rain staved off the heat of the summer until July. The hottest day of the year was July 26 at 107 degrees, though it did not break any records. The lowest temperature in 2012 was hit Dec. 27 at 6 degrees. That didn’t break any records, either, but with the unusually high temperatures and mild winter, the citizens of Manhattan surely felt the chill.