Extreme heat in the second half of June helped make the first six months of this year the hottest January to June ever recorded in the lower 48 United States, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said yesterday.
Eighty-six locations set temperature records in June, with another 87 tying existing marks. That helped push the average temperature in the contiguous United States to 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit, 2 degrees above the 20th-century average.
The sizzling heat capped the warmest 12 months since record-keeping began in 1895, NOAA said, inching out the previous record-holder -- June 2011 to May 2012 -- by just 0.05 degree Fahrenheit.
The scorching temperatures, combined with dry conditions in parts of the West, created ideal conditions for the wildfires that have ravaged Colorado, Wyoming and Utah, according to the analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.
Wildfires scorched more than 1.3 million acres nationwide last month, the second-highest area recorded in June.
In Colorado, where fires have destroyed more than 600 homes and burned nearly a quarter-million acres this year, the average statewide temperature was 6.4 degrees above average last month -- the warmest June on record.
And more than 77 percent of the state was experiencing some level of drought as of July 3, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Most widespread drought
Drought conditions now cover 56 percent of the contiguous United States, the highest percentage since the government-supported Drought Monitor began 12 years ago, NOAA said, helped by below-average precipitation in the West, Plains, Ohio Valley and mid-Atlantic states.
Wyoming recorded its driest June ever last month. Colorado and Utah recorded their second-driest Junes, with eight other states experiencing conditions that rank among the 10th driest for the month.
But some states bucked the warm, dry national trend.
Tropical Storm Debby dumped 10 to 30 inches of rain over the Florida Panhandle last month, helping drive Florida to its wettest June ever recorded, with 13.16 inches of rain -- 6.17 inches above average.
Oregon and Washington, along with many coastal states in the Northeast, also recorded above-average precipitation. The Pacific Northwest was cooler than average in June, as was the Southeast.
The news of June's weather extremes comes as NOAA prepares to issue its annual "State of the Climate" report today, examining global conditions in 2011.