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Coverage of 2012 Summer Heat Waves

A widespread and unusually intense heat wave gripped much of the continental U.S. from mid-June through early July 2012. Triple-digit temperatures began in the West, greatly enhancing the wildfire problems in Colorado, Utah and other states, before expanding eastward into the Plains, Midwest, and eventually reaching the East Coast.

Surface temperatures on Saturday afternoon, July 7. Credit: UCAR.

By the time the heat wave came to an end in the first week of July, more than 8,000 warm temperature records had been set or tied, including about 1,000 monthly records and about 350 all-time records. In some cases, records were broken that had stood since the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s.

In some areas, though, the heat did not disappear for long, as the Central U.S. and High Plains regions continued to bake under a persistent "Heat Dome" through July. Climate outlooks through early fall call for more above average temperatures across much of the lower 48 states.

Climate science research has shown that manmade global warming makes extreme heat events more likely to occur and more intense, although specific studies about climate change’s role in this event have not yet been undertaken.

The heat greatly exacerbated drought conditions across the U.S. By early July, 56 percent of the country was experiencing some form of drought, dimming corn growers’ prospects of a banner year. This is the largest drought footprint of the 21st century, and one of the top 10 drought events on record.

In cased you've missed any of it, here's an archive for our coverage of the extreme heat this summer:

September 26: Barring Unusual Cold, 2012 Will Be Hottest Year on Record

September 17 : Globe Records Fourth Warmest August as Arctic Ice Melts

September 12: 2012 Record Temperatures: Which States Led the Nation

September 10: U.S. Has Third-Warmest Summer, Warmest Year to Date

September 4: Summer of 2012 Is Hottest on Record For Many in U.S.

September 4: Yes, Summers in the U.S. Really Are Getting Warmer

August 15: Planet Records Fourth-Warmest July on Record

August 8: July Sizzles, Records Fall: Warmest Month on Record

August 7: High Times: More 2012 Record Highs than All of Last Year

August 1: Cities Across U.S. Bore Brunt of Record-Setting July Heat

July 30: Extreme Heat Continues to Plague South Central States

July 25: Extreme Heat Proves Relentless in Central States

July 23: As Climate Change Worsens, Elderly Face Deadly Heat

July 18: Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Extreme Heat, Study Finds

July 17: Heidi Cullen Talks Drought, Extremes on MSNBC

July 16: Midwest to Mid-Atlantic Bracing for Onslaught of Heat 

July 12: Spurred by Record Heat, Drought Stretches Across U.S.

July 9: 2012 Heat Wave is Historic, if not Unprecedented

July 7: Heat Wave Peaks After Breaking Thousands of Records

July 6: Ongoing Heat Wave in U.S. Rivals Events of Dust Bowl Era

July 5: Historic Heat Wave Marches On as Drought Expands

July 3: Heat Wave Expands Again Before Retreating to the West

July 2: Media Heats Up with Coverage of Extreme Weather

July 2: Heat Wave Continues As Storm Cleanup Drags On

July 1: Heat Wave Sets More All-Time Temperature Records

June 30: Heat Wave Spawns Deadly Severe Thunderstorms

June 29: Scorching June Heat Wave Puts 50 Million in U.S. on Alert 

June 28: Massive ‘Debilitating’ Heat Wave Expands Eastward

June 27: Heat Wave Adds to Wildfire Woes, Expands East 

June 26: Heat Wave Bakes the West and High Plains, Moves East

June 22: Heat Wave Continues for One More Day in East

June 21: Summer Comes in with a Bang Setting Heat Records