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Break in the new year, last year was a dandy!

Happy 2006! Last year was a year for more extreme weather and extreme lying by our public officials about that extreme weather. Let's check the facts:

U.S. weather extreme this year
Knight Ridder Newspapers

It's not just your imagination. America's weather went wild this year.

It began with a record downpour in the Nevada desert and record warmth in Alaska, and it's ending with floods in California and wildfires in Texas and Oklahoma.

Along the way, at least 214 climate records were smashed or tied, thanks to a slew of hurricanes, 21 straight days of 100-degree-plus temperatures in Fresno, Calif., and wildfires that have burned 8.64 million acres, nearly a quarter-million more than the previous record, set in 2000.

Extremes were everywhere. Above-normal heat covered twice as much land as usual. Excessive rain and snow blanketed three times as much land as normal. Average daily low temperatures were warmer than normal across four times as much U.S. territory as in average years.

It was the third worst year for U.S. extreme-weather events in history, according to the National Climatic Data Center. For 2005's first 11 months, the nation had an extreme-climate index figure of 35, behind only 1998's 42 and 1934's 37. The average annual score is 20.

One form of extreme weather fell short, however: tornadoes. In 2005, there were only half as many killer U.S. tornadoes as recent norms.

The relentless Atlantic hurricane season especially marked 2005 as wild - and tragic. Hurricanes set or tied 19 records, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including:

• Hurricane Katrina caused $50 billion in insured damages.

• Hurricane Wilma set a hemispheric record for low barometric pressure.

• Three Category 5 hurricanes formed: Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

• A record seven major storms packed winds above 110 mph; the old record was five.

• Fourteen hurricanes in the season beat the old record of 12.

• The 26 named storms shattered the old mark of 21, set in 1933, causing meteorologists to run out of conventional names for hurricanes and tropical storms. They had to go five deep into the Greek alphabet for new names.

Many of the remaining extremes came from Alaska, which had 53 percent of the wildfire acreage burned and set temperature, rain and snow records almost weekly. That's because Alaska is getting hotter from global warming and its permafrost is melting, said Jay Lawrimore, the chief of the National Climatic Data Center's climate-monitoring branch.

And a recap of the whole year, courtesy of the New Scientist

2005: The year in environment

Well, I couldn't let the first post of the year go by without a message from our holy commander....

Thanks for the link Jin!