Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.
If this summer seems a bit warmer than usual, you aren’t wrong. July boasted the hottest average temperature recorded in 118 years of modern record keeping, eclipsing the previous record-holder, July 1936, when the country was in the midst of the Dust Bowl.
The average temperature across the Lower 48 states last month was 77.6 degrees, two-tenths of a degree higher than the 86-year-old record. In the Dust Bowl years, Reuters notes, soaring daytime temperatures pushed the mercury to new heights, but it would cool down over night. This time around, nighttime lows simply weren’t all that low.
The period from January through July of 2012 also boasted the highest temperatures for that period in the books, which have been kept since 1895. Likewise, over the past year, every state but one (Washington) in the continental United States saw higher than average temperatures.
The thermometer-busting heat certainly didn’t help the drought that is affecting 63 percent of the nation, and devastating crops across the Midwest. The hot weather, the Washington Post explains, perpetuates a cycle in which "high temperatures accelerated evaporation which dried up the land surface allowing it to heat up even more." Nor did the heat help the wildfires that left more than 2 million acres charred last month.
Such high temperatures don’t necessarily indicate global warming. The U.S. represents less than 4 percent of the earth’s area. But, the Post points out, global temperatures are running high as well. In NOAA’s worldwide temperature report for June, the month ranked as fourth hottest ever. The global tally for July has yet to be released.