Continental U.S. sets multiple heat records after blistering June

A new NOAA report shows that the last six months were the hottest on record for the continental U.S. (Photo by thefourelements via Flickr.)

Record breaking temperatures in June helped make the past 12 months the warmest on record for the continental United States, according to a report released Monday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Some 2,300 daily record highs were broken and another almost 1,000 were tied, all across the United States.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center's report found that the average temperature in June was 71.2 degrees, 2 degrees above last century's average. Some 170 all-time highs were set during the month as well.

Scientists point to the rising temperatures as further evidence of climate change and the effects it could have on global weather patterns.

Jake Crouch, a scientist at the National Climatic Data Center, said the record highs were to be expected in a warming world.

"It's hard to point my finger and say that’s the reason this is happening," he said. "But the conditions that we've been experiencing are consistent with what we would expect with climate change."

Every state in the contiguous U.S. except for Washington saw warmer-than-average temperatures from July 2011 to June 2012. The 56-degree national average during that period was 3.2 degrees above the long-term average.

Temperatures in South Carolina (113 degrees) and Georgia (112 degrees) are under review as possible all-time statewide temperature records.

Crouch said the recent temperature spike goes beyond the upward trend that stretches back more than 100 years. He's still not sure what to make of it.

"As we look back on this month and this year, it may be an outlier or it may be the new normal," he said.

And temperatures are still rising. The period from January to June of this year was also the warmest first half of a year on record for the U.S. mainland since recordkeeping began in 1895.

It was also one of the driest, with a nationally-averaged precipitation total that was 1.62 inches below average. The six-month period was among the 10 driest for 14 states.

The hot, dry weather created ideal wildfire conditions across the Rocky Mountain West. Wildfires burned more than 1.3 million acres, the second most on record for the month of June.

A raging wildfire destroyed hundred of homes in Colorado and forced more than 32,000 people to evacuate in late June. Others have destroyed thousands of acres in Wyoming and Montana.