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U.S. heat eases slightly in September, but 2012 still the warmest year on record to-date

Near-record heat prevailed across the West, with a small patch of cooler-than-average temperatures in the Midwest.

Heat wave shifts west, with much of the eastern U.S. reporting near average temps for the month

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A brutal summer-long North American heat wave eased up last month, but the monthly temperature was still 1.4 degrees above the long-term average, making it the 23d warmest September on record, and the 16th month in a row with above-average readings in the contiguous 48 states.

The month also brought record and near-record dry conditions to the Northern Plains and Northwest, according to the National Climatic Data Center’s monthly update. Hot readings shifted west, with multiple states states from California through the interior West reporting September readings among the top-warmest on record, including Nevada (third-warmest) and Utah (ninth-warmest).

Dry conditions also continued across much of the country, with more than 64 percent of the Lower 48 states still designated as being at some level of drought. The dry and warm conditions in the northwestern quadrant of the country led to another month of above-average wildfire activity. Nationally, wildfires burned across a footprint of 1.1 million acres, with most of the activity in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

Cooler than average readings were recorded in the Midwest and the Ohio Valley, with near-average temperatures across much of the eastern U.S.

The year to-date (January – September) still ranks as the warmest on record for the contiguous 48 states, with an average temperature of 59.8 degrees — 3.8 degrees warmer than the 20th century average and 1.2 degrees warmer than the previous record set in 2006.

During that nine-month span, 46 states reported temperatures in the top 10, with 25 states reporting all-time records for the period. According to the NCDC, only Washington had near-average temperatures during the period.

The first nine months of 2012 were also the 11th-driest on record for the 48 contiguous states, with wetter-than-average readings along the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Northwest.

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