COLUMBUS, Ohio - An unusually warm winter followed by a hot spring and summer turned 2012 into one of the hottest years on record across Ohio.
Cleveland and Columbus both had their highest average annual temperatures this past year while the state's other big cities just missed out on breaking their records.
Toledo, Cincinnati and Dayton still had temperatures that put 2012 among the five hottest years they've posted, according to the National Weather Service.
The records should be no surprise after a year that brought 70-degree temperatures in March, oppressive heat in June and July and little snow until the last few weeks of the year.
It was so warm in February that organizers of a winter celebration in Whitehouse near Toledo had to replace a snow angel contest with sidewalk chalking and switch a snowball throwing contest into a softball toss.
State climatologist Jeffrey Rogers said more and more evidence points to climate change for the higher temperatures. He told The Columbus Dispatch that the state has had decades of rising temperatures since the 1960s, blaming pollutants from power plants, factories and vehicles.
"We admit the climate is changing; we just don't want to take the blame for it," he said.
Columbus had an average temperature of 56.5 degrees, 4 degrees higher than the city's annual average and just above the record of 56.3 set in 1998.
Cleveland's average of 54.1 degrees also topped its record of 53.6 set in 1998. The temperature there hit at least 90 degrees on 28 days, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.
Toledo (53.1) and Dayton (55.3) had their fourth hottest years and Cincinnati (57.1) had its fifth warmest.
Unseasonably high temperatures made March the warmest recorded in the Cleveland and Cincinnati areas and set records elsewhere in Ohio.
Akron, Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown each tied or broke previous records with runs of eight or more straight days of high temperatures reaching at least 70 degrees in March. A little over a month later, temperatures in early May were in the high 80s in those same cities.