The year 2012 was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States, beating the previous record by a full degree in temperature, a government climate agency said on Tuesday.
GLENCOE, OKLAHOMA, UNITED STATES (AUGUST 4, 2012) (NBC) - The prolonged drought in much of the United States was blamed for the rapid spread of wildfires across the midwest during the summer of 2012. Blazes like those that destroyed homes and businesses in Glencoe, Oklahoma in August spread rapidly thanks to a combination of strong winds and tinder-dry brush, starved of water for several months.
Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the average temperature in 2012 in the contiguous United States was 55.3 degrees Fahrenheit (12.94 degrees Celsius), 3.2 degrees above the average recorded during the 20th century and 1.0 degree above 1998, until now the hottest on record. The contiguous United States excludes Alaska and Hawaii.
The agency also confirmed what many farmers in the nation's mid-section and many residents of the western part of the country already knew: 2012 was drier than average.
The year was the 15th driest year on record, it said. At the peak of the heat in July 2012, 61 percent of the country was in drought, NOAA said, including the nation's breadbasket of the Midwest, as well as the Southwest and Mountain West, where wildfires charred 9.2 million acres.
The agency's U.S. Climate Extremes Index, which tracks volatility in temperature and precipitation, as well as the number of tropical cyclones making landfall, was twice as active as normal in 2012, the agency said. Only 1998 had more extreme weather, NOAA said.
There were 11 weather-related disasters in the continental United States during 2012, with losses topping $1 billion, including Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac and a series of tornadoes in the Great Plains,Texas and the Ohio Valley, it said.
Every state in the contiguous U.S. experienced above-average annual temperatures in 2012. Nineteen had a record warm year and an additional 26 had one of their 10 warmest.
The above-average temperatures during the spring continued into summer. The heat peaked in July with an average temperature of 76.9 degrees Fahrenheit (24.94 degrees Celsius), 3.6 degrees above average, making it the hottest month ever observed in the continental United States.
An estimated 99.1 million people - nearly one-third of the nation's population - experienced 10 or more days during the summer when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the agency said.
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