National

Sep 18, 2012 9:52 AM by CNN

2012 hottest year on record, federal agency says

The first eight months of 2012 were the hottest ever recorded in the continental United States and the summer period of June, July and August was the third hottest ever, the National Climatic Data Center reported Monday.

Although the August average of 74.4 degrees Fahrenheit made it only the 16th hottest August on record, the hottest July ever combined with the hottest spring on record to keep January-August 2012 atop the record books.

The nation as a whole is averaging 4 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the year. That's a full degree higher than the same period in 2006, the second hottest January-August on record.

Record keeping began in 1895.

The record warmth is a constant for from cities north to south, from Fargo, North Dakota, at 5.7 degrees F above average, to Tampa, Florida, at 2.2 degrees F above average. Green Bay, Wisconsin, posted the biggest difference to the average, 6.7 degrees F above.

The hottest temperature recorded for the month was 126 degrees F in Death Valley, California, recently recognized as the hottest place on Earth.

If you were looking colder than normal weather, the West Coast was the place to be. San Diego was .2 degrees F below normal for the year, San Francisco was 1 degree F below normal, Portland, Oregon, .7 degrees F below normal and Seattle, 1.1 degrees F below normal.

Outside the continental 48, Alaska and Hawaii temperatures were also below normal.

Meanwhile, drought conditions continued to affect a large chunk of the 48 states. The portion of the country experiencing exceptional drought, the worst level of drought, doubled in August to 6%, the NCDC reported. Overall, 39% of the country was in severe to extreme drought, "indicating that the drought has intensified," it said. Only the droughts of the 1930s and 1950s have been worse, the agency said.

By the numbers: Today's drought vs. the Dust Bowl era

The impact of the drought currently gripping the United States is real and tangible, as millions can attest. But the depth of the pain still falls short of that experienced by many in the Great Plains and beyond during the so-called Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.
Here is a look -- by the numbers -- comparing what happened then and what's happening now, both times due to pervasive and historic droughts.

The Dust Bowl days

8: The years of the general duration of the so-called Dust Bowl era, from 1931 to 1939
3.5 million: People who left their homes in the Great Plains and beyond due to drought
250,000: Families who lost their farms and ranches to bank foreclosures
60 mph: Speed of winds pushing a huge dust cloud on April 13, 1935, through Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and beyond -- causing hundreds of deaths -- during what is called "Black Sunday"
5: The string of years in the 1930s of the warmest temperatures ever recorded until recently in Amarillo, Texas
74: The degrees of temperature drop in an 18-hour span in Boise City, Oklahoma, in February 1933, as Dust Bowl winters were often bitterly cold
20 million: Hectares of range and farmland ruined annually during the Dust Bowl era
13: The number of camps, consisting of about 300 families each, set up by the Farm Security Administration for Dust Bowl migrants escaping the hardest hit areas

The current drought

40: Number of the 50 states with drought-designated counties as determined by the federal government, making them eligible for emergency aid
63%: Amount of the contiguous U.S. experiencing moderate to exceptional drought conditions
33%: Amount of the contiguous U.S. in such straits last year, indicating 30% more of the country now faces such conditions
#1: The historic rank for July 2012, nationally, in temperature, making it the hottest July since records were first kept in 1895
123.4: The bushels of corn per acre predicted by the USDA, the lowest yield since 1995
4 billion: The number of fewer bushels of U.S. corn likely to be produced, compared to what was forecast at the beginning of the year
80%: The amount of U.S. agricultural land being affected by the current drought
65%: The level of U.S. cattle production being affected by the current drought

Sources: Library of Congress, U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Climatic Data Center, U.S. Drought Monitor

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