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 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