The first eight months of 2012 in the lower 48 U.S. states were the warmest start to any year in records dating to 1895, according to the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
The period from January through August also was the 14th driest for the region, with precipitation 1.9 inches (4.8 centimeters) below the 20.2-inch average, the center said.
June to August was the third-warmest summer on record as temperatures averaged 74.4 degrees Fahrenheit (23.6 Celsius) or 2.3 degrees warmer than the 20th-century average, according to the center. Only 2011 and 1936 had hotter summers, which meteorologists mark from June 1 to Aug. 31, the center said in a statement released today.
“The summer season was warmer-than-average for a large portion of the contiguous United States, with the exception of the Southeast and parts of the Northwest, which were near or slightly cooler than average,” the center said. “There were 16 states across the West, Plains and Upper Midwest which had summer temperatures among their 10 highest. Colorado and Wyoming each had their record-hottest summer.”
Summer heat contributed to the drought across the Midwest that damaged corn and soybean crops, sending grain prices higher for months. The heat also pushed natural gas prices up, after a mild winter depressed them, as people in the large U.S. cities turned to air conditioning to cool down.