The July heat wave that withered crops and dried up rivers is officially the hottest month ever recorded the contiguous US, the NOAA says.
The average temperature for the Lower 48 last month was 77.6 degrees, breaking the old record from July 1936 at the height of the Dust Bowl, by two-tenths of a degree. Records go back to 1895, The Associated Press reported.
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July 2012 was 3.3 degrees warmer than the 20th century average, according to weather.com.
"While three degrees might not seem like much because temperatures can vary a lot more than that from day to day, it’s significant when averaged over a whole month, and particularly so in the summer when temperatures typically have less variation than at other times of year," senior NOAA meteorologist Stu Ostro said.
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The NOAA said the warmer-than-average temperatures engulfed much of the nation in July, with the largest departures from average reported in the Plains, Midwest and along the East Coast, according to weather.com.
The seven months of 2012 to date are the warmest of any year on record and were drier than average as well, CNN reported.
June was the third-driest month nationally in at least 118 years, according to CNN.
The latest reports indicate an estimated 55 percent of the country is facing at least moderate drought conditions -- the largest swath since 1956.