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Feeling the heat: First half of 2012 is warmest on record

By Vignesh Ramachandran, 9 July 2012

It's been a hot year. In fact, the first six months of 2012 accounted for the warmest January-through-June period on record for the contiguous U.S., the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Monday.

The national temperatures averaged 52.9 degrees — "4.5 degrees above the long-term average," NOAA said in a statement. "Most of the contiguous U.S. was record and near-record warm for the six-month period, except the Pacific Northwest." East of the Rockies, 28 states were "record warm," NOAA said. The past year also registered as the hottest 12-month period on record in the contiguous U.S., narrowly surpassing the mark set last month, NOAA said.

Climate models indicate the hot temperatures are not expected to ease anytime soon. “It looks like it’s going to stay above normal, for much of the remainder of the summer,” said Jon Gottschalck at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

Last month was the 14th hottest June on record. The average June temperature for the contiguous 48 states was 71.2 degrees — two degrees higher than the 20th century average. With much of the nation experiencing scorching temperatures, NOAA found 170 American cities met or broke record-high temperatures in June. South Carolina's 113-degree high and Georgia's 112-degree high could be the highest temperature records ever in their respective states.

Conditions have also been incredibly dry — it was the tenth-driest June on record. More than half the contiguous U.S. — 56 percent — have drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The start of the monsoon season around Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado are some relief for areas affected by wildfire, Gottschalck said.

Colorado, which experienced its worst wildfire season in a decade, was 6.4 degrees above normal June temperatures. Wildfires ravaged land across the country with more than 1.3 million acres burned overall — "the second most on record during June," NOAA said. While much of the country was bone dry, Florida had its wettest June on record. The Sunshine State was more than six inches above average precipitation, much of it caused by Tropical Storm Debby. Washington state, Oregon and Maine each saw a top-ten wet June.

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