Last updated: February 20. 2013 12:34AM - 490 Views

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As the snow lingered and temperatures stayed below freezing Wednesday, it might be hard to believe Northeastern Pennsylvania is only three days removed from a year that broke a 91-year-old record for being warm.


At a daily average of 53 degrees, 2012 was the warmest year on record at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport, breaking the mark of 52.4 degrees set in 1921, according to data provided by The National Weather Service office in Binghamton, N.Y.


Similar records fell in several Pennsylvania communities, including Mount Pocono, Allentown and Philadelphia, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Paul Walker.


But before people start jumping on the global warming bandwagon, Walker said these ebbs and flows could be attributed to cyclical weather patterns. You have to look more over the long term to be concerned, Walker said.


He noted that the past three years have not dramatically increased when it comes to average temperatures locally. In fact, 2011 wasn't as warm as 2010, though 2012 was nearly a full 2 degrees warmer than 2010.


Since 1981, the average yearly temperature at the local airport is 49.4 degrees, which, said National Weather Service Meteorologist Erik Haden, shows there's no doubt we're warming. But, like Walker, Haden cautioned about using a few years as the basis for declaring a long-term change.


If indeed there is a dramatic increase in the temperatures, that could lead to more extreme weather events such as droughts or a higher frequency of heavy precipitation, Haden said.


While 2012 saw record average temperatures, the season's 20 inches of snow was less than half the average recorded at the airport in Pittston Township in a typical year. Walker said that this area typically sees 46.5 inches of snowfall annually.


Total precipitation measured at 38.09 inches of rain, just shy of the average of 38.33 inches.


That paled in comparison to 2011, however, when 59.91 inches of precipitation fell at the airport. Much of that was attributable to back-to-back tropical storms, Irene and Lee in August and September.


Walker said 2012 started off in the midst of a mild winter, then included an above-average summer and typical fall.


But 2013 is starting off frigid with a New Year's Day high temperature that was 15 degrees lower than the same day last year. On Wednesday, the local high was 26 degrees – 14 degrees lower than the high recorded on Jan. 2, 2012.


Haden noted that eight of last year's 12 months recorded temperatures at least 1 degree above normal.


Only one month – November – was at least 1 degree below normal. And some months were well above normal, including March, which was 11.9 degrees above normal and for the first time ever had a higher average temperature than April.


There were 19 days that reached 90 degrees or higher, including a five-day stretch in July. In a typical year, this area sees only six days during which the mercury reaches the 90s.


On the hottest day of the year, July 22, the high reached 97. On the coldest day, Jan. 22, the low was recorded at 5 degrees.

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