July is US' hottest-ever month
According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the contiguous US last month was 77.6°F - 3.3°F above the 20th century average.
"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," says senior meteorologist Stu Ostro.
It makes it not only the hottest July on record, but the hottest-ever month since records began in 1895. The previous warmest July for the nation was July 1936 - in the middle of the Dust Bowl era - when the average US temperature was 77.4°F.
Overall, the nation's experienced its warmest 12-month period since records began. The middle of the US saw near-record dry conditions - indeed, the drought footprint covered nearly 63 percent of the Lower 48, according the US Drought Monitor.
"The August 2011-July 2012 period was the warmest 12-month period of any 12 months on record for the contiguous US, narrowly surpassing the record broken last month for the July 2011-June 2012 period by 0.07°F," says the NOAA.
"The nationally averaged temperature of 56.1°F was 3.3°F above the long term average. Except Washington, which was near average, every state across the contiguous US had warmer than average temperatures for the period."
And the warm and dry conditions over a large portion of the country made for ideal wildfire conditions. Over two million acres were burned nationwide during July due to wildfires - nearly half a million acres more than average, and the fourth most on record since 2000.