By Kanishka Singh and Nichola Groom
(Reuters) - The year 2021 ranked as the fourth-warmest year on record in the United States, with December 2021 being the warmest December ever recorded, as the country was hit by 20 separate billion-dollar disasters, according to an overview of a government report published on Monday.
The analysis from the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) came hours after European Union scientists said last year was the world's fifth hottest on record, adding to evidence pointing toward the globe's long-term warming trend.
NCEI is a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency will release its full annual climate report on Jan. 13.
"I wish I could say otherwise, but I expect even more of this in the years and decades to come," Russell Vose, chief of the climatic analysis and synthesis branch at NCEI, told Reuters.
In the contiguous United States, the six warmest years in 127 years of record-keeping have all occurred since 2012, NCEI said in the overview of a comprehensive climate report.
The average temperature in the contiguous United States 2021 was 54.5 Fahrenheit (12.5 Celsius), 2.5 degrees above the 20th century average. The record of 55.3 Fahrenheit (12.94 Celsius) was set in 2012.
"The consequences of climate change impact each and every American, especially disadvantaged communities across the nation. We must act on climate now to build a better, and more safe future for all", said Eddie Johnson, chairwoman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Johnson said the report was "heartbreaking".
Temperatures were particularly high in the Northeastern states of Maine and New Hampshire, which recorded their second-warmest years ever. States in the Northeast, Midwest and West also logged far above-average temperatures, while conditions in Southern states were closer to average.
The report also found that the nation experienced 20 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each. Those events included wildfires in the Western United States, a cold snap in the middle of the country in February that caused power outages for nearly 10 million people, December tornadoes in Kentucky and surrounding states, among others.
It was the second-highest number of so-called billion-dollar events on record. The highest was 22 events in 2020.
Total U.S. disaster costs topped $145 billion for the year. Hurricane Ida, which hit the U.S. Gulf Coast in August, brought the most losses at $75 billion.
Fatalities related to those events reached 688 and were the highest in a decade.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Lisa Shumaker)