High temperatures are not uncommon for July in the U.S., but this year they were extreme. July 2012 now marks the hottest month ever recorded in the lower forty-eight states.
According to NOAA’s monthly climate report, the country averaged 77.6°F this July. That is 3.3°F above the 20th century average and breaks the previous record set during the Dust Bowl in July 1936.
Most of the heat last month was centered in the mid-west and central plains, where it fueled the region’s devastating drought. By the end of the month, more than 60% of the U.S. was in a state of moderate drought or worse. These hot and dry conditions were ideal for wildfires, which scorched more than two million acres nationwide in July alone.
On the whole, this year has been exceptionally warm across the contiguous United States. In fact, the period of January through July 2012 now stands as the warmest seven months this country has seen since modern record keeping began in 1895.