Last year was the lower 48 states' second most extreme year of weather in more than 100 years, according to the National Climatic Data Center.
The center is the nation's library of weather records, and scientists there created the Climate Extremes Index to objectively track the relative usualness of each year's weather.
The index was created in the mid-1990s and examines years retroactively as far back as 1910.
The most extreme year in that 100-plus year data set was 1998. It topped 2012 because there were more damaging tropical cyclones that made landfall in 1998, according to the NCDC.
Here's the rub, though.
Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NCDC, said Superstorm Sandy wasn't classified as a tropical cyclone when it made landfall, so the center didn't factor it into the equation when it calculated the 2012 ranking.
The factors used to assign a score include trends in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical systems based on the wind velocity of landfalling tropical storm and hurricanes. The score assigned to 1998 was 42.6 percent, while the score assigned to 2012 was 39.5 percent.
If Sandy had been included in the 2012 ranking, would it have become the most extreme year on record? The folks at NCDC said there's no way to say.
However, if the tropical storm criteria are removed from the rankings, then 2012 easily becomes the most extreme. The year earns a score of 46.6 percent, while, under that scenario, 1998 earns a score of 41.8 percent.
The bottom line, these climate scientists say, is that both years were devastating.
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