Climate Checkup for 2022:  What Six Charts Tell Us

2022 was another year of wild, warm and unpredictable weather.  As we did a year ago, here’s an annual checkup on the globe’s health, as told in six charts.

Global Temperature Trends

Global map of temperature patterns combined with animated bar graph of yearly temperature anomalies from 1976 to 2022

Source:  National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

2022 was the sixth warmest year on record, with all 10 warmest years occurring since 2010.  Earth’s temperature has been rising by an average of 0.14° Fahrenheit (0.08° Celsius) per decade since 1880, or about 2° F overall.  The recent rate of warming has been accelerating as the atmospheric global level of carbon dioxide approaches 420 parts per million.  

If emissions continue to rise rapidly, models project that the global temperature may rise at least 5° F above the 1901-1960 average, and possibly as much as 10.2° F above, by 2100.  If, on the other hand, recently enacted clean-energy policies slow the rate of emissions growth over the next few years and then begin a long march toward Net Zero emissions by 2050, the projected rate of warming could be cut in half by the end of this century.  

Rapid deployment of solar and wind resources will be critical to keeping this downward emissions trajectory in play.

Record Heat – and Not Too Much Cold

The contiguous U.S. had its third warmest year on record in 2022.  The average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was  53.4° F, 1.4° F above the 20th-century average.  Ten states recorded a top-10 warmest year, including all six New England states.  All 10 warmest states, except for Vermont, have borders on ocean waters that are absorbing heat much faster than land. Annual 2022 National Climate Report | National Centers for Environmental  Information (NCEI)

In the southern Plains, an early-season heat wave persisted from mid-April well into July.  Another major heat wave broke out across the West at the start of September, setting nearly 1,000 daily high temperature records through Sept. 9.  And in the Pacific Northwest, a historic October heat wave brought a return of summer-like temperatures across the region, with Seattle shattering its daily high temperature record by a whopping 16° F on Oct. 16.  Only six states in the Upper Midwest recorded annual temperatures that were not above average in 2022.  

Regional Climate Impacts

Map presenting billion-dollar events. See Events page for more information.

The U.S. recorded 18 billion-dollar weather-related disasters in 2022.  Such catastrophic events, which used to occur about eight times a year globally as of 1980 (after adjusting for inflation), now are striking at a pace of once every three weeks!

Weather extremes ran the gamut in 2022:  

  • Cities up and down the Mississippi River saw major disruptions following four torrential rainfall events that caused significant flooding over the summer.  Farther west, drought spread across much of the southern and central Plains and western half of the continental U.S., enveloping 63% of the country by the end of October.  
  • In Florida, Hurricane Ian, a powerful Category 4 storm, swept across the state on Sept. 28, before making a second landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 storm on Sept. 30.  Ian’s property damage may top $100 billion, including $60 billion in insured losses.  Only Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans in 2005, ranks as a costlier hurricane.  
  • In the Great Lakes region, as cold winter air settled over warm, open waters in late November and early December, tremendous lake-effect snowstorms pummeled western New York with record amounts of snow, piling up to eight feet in some places.  A major winter storm just before Christmas caused a million utility customers from Texas to Maine to lose power – including 200,000 customers in New Hampshire and Vermont – as they were slammed by a combination of drenching rains, ice, heavy snow and record winds.  

Some local utilities spent their entire annual budgets for grid repairs on just this one storm, setting the stage for future rate increases.  Meanwhile, back in Florida, FPL, the state’s largest utility, announced that it is seeking a 10% increase in residential electricity rates to recover $1.3 billion in repair costs for damage caused to its grid by Hurricane Ian. 

Drought Monitor

California has been at the epicenter of a megadrought in the American West since 2000.  As 2022 drew to a close, a series of trans-Pacific storms drenched much of the state with “atmospheric rivers” of moisture, dropping more than three feet of rain and up to 20 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains – more precipitation than some locations normally receive in a whole year!  In just two weeks, all areas of “extreme” drought, the second-highest level of drought, disappeared in California, and the extent of severe drought, the-third highest level, fell from 71% to 46%.  Even so, a lot more precipitation will be needed over a sustained period to get rid of this 20+ year megadrought

Elsewhere across the U.S., drought conditions worsened in the southern Plains and Southeast Coast in 2022.  As of Jan. 17, 2023, 44% of the lower 48 states were in some stage of drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

It’s time to pump the brakes!  As the Covid-19 pandemic runs its course through the global economy, greenhouse gas emissions have resumed their upward trend, rising 1% in 2022.  Hopefully, this trajectory will be short-lived as leading industrial nations put climate policies in place to sharply reduce GHG emissions in coming years.  In 2022, the U.S. passed the most significant climate legislation of the year, with an aim to cut GHG emissions in half by 2030 and to phase out all use of fossil fuels in the power sector by 2035.  Also in 2022, California, Vermont and more than a dozen other states adopted plans to phase out sales of gas-powered vehicles by 2035Transportation is now America’s largest source of GHG emissions.    Emissions update: Line graph showing carbon emissions since 1960 globally and for a number of regions.

Climate-related Disasters

Climate change and La Niña driving losses: the natural disaster figures for  2022 | Munich Re

Natural disasters totaled $270 billion in global damages in 2022.  With less than half of these damages covered by insurance, people in poorer countries were especially hard hit.  

Looking for ways to tackle climate change in your backyard?  Solaflect Energy is your home energy management partner.  We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity for a more resilient and climate-friendly future.  For more information email us, or call (802) 649-3700.

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