July 2012: The hottest July in U.S. history

Thursday, August 9, 2012 | 5:49 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — This summer, the United States experienced the hottest July on record.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature for the U.S. in July was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

That is 3.3 degrees F above the 20th-century average for the contiguous 48 states. It just beats the previous record, 77.4 degrees F, set in 1936.

In Missouri, July  2012 tied July 1954 as the fifth hottest on record, according to state climatologist Pat Guinan’s July weather report. The average temperature in the state was 83.8 degrees F, or 6.2 degrees F higher than the national average.

Columbia had the fourth-warmest June and July this year. The average temperature was 81.1 degrees F, according to the Missouri Climate Center.

Dry conditions have coincided with the sweltering heat. The drought this summer is the most widespread since 1956.

Conditions worsened with below-normal levels of precipitation in July. Precipitation measured 1.61 inches, which is 2.63 inches below normal, according to Guinan's report.

The dryness and heat have placed Missouri under severe to exceptional drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. These conditions have continually deepened for Missouri as the summer has progressed, according to the report.

Anthony Lupo, chair of the MU Department of Soil, Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences, said the dryness feeds itself, perpetuating the drought.

Lupo said it has brought desert-like conditions to Missouri. The thunderstorms in Columbia late Wednesday night were similar to thunderstorms in the desert, Lupo said. There was a lot of thunder but very little rain.

“I expect August will continue to be dry," Lupo said. "There is no indication that this is going to change. Right now, it’s going to stay dry."

Lupo predicts the drought will end by the middle of September when the jet stream moves south.

This fall will be an "El Niño" season, he said, which typically brings cooler temperatures and more moisture. 

Supervising editor is Dan Burley.

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