July was the hottest month ever recorded in the United States, beating the previous record set in the 1930s Dust Bowl era, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The average temperature in the contiguous 48 states last month was 77.6 degrees, 3.3 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century under a system of recordkeeping that began in 1895 and is part of NOAA’s monthly State of the Climate Overview.
The superlative now attached to July 2012 only sharpens the details of a relentlessly grim summer. More than 60% of the country is in the grip of “moderate or exceptional” drought, according to NOAA, an increase of 7% from the end of June.
Crops and livestock have been devastated. Much of the nation faces the threat of wildfire.
“Over 2 million acres were burned nationwide during July due to wildfires, nearly half a million acres above average,” NOAA reported.
The NOAA data arrive in the wake of a new research paper published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That paper argues exceedingly high summer temperatures, longer summers and related catastrophes, such as wildfire and drought, are poised to be the norm -- and that they're driven by climate change.