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Published: Saturday, 8/11/2012


Hot and dry

The next time some old-timer tells you how hot it was in the Dust Bowl years, remind him that the 1930s have nothing on 2012. According to a new report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature of the continental United States in July was 77.6 degrees -- 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit above average for the past century.

It's official: July 2012 was the hottest month ever in the United States. So far, 2012 is the driest and hottest year in more than a century.

Farmers are battling a drought estimated to cover 63 percent of the country. Crops are failing and livestock are being put down. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated half of all counties disaster areas. Higher prices at the supermarket undoubtedly will result.

Wildfires are a problem nationwide. Rivers are receding and exposing once- dark river beds to direct sunlight. Heavy rains have hit parts of the United States, but the damage to crops and livestock has been done.

Writing recently in the New York Times, former climate-change skeptic Richard Muller conceded what most of the scientific community already has concluded: Global warming is real.

Mr. Muller now agrees that man-made emissions of carbon dioxide are contributing to the rise in Earth's temperature. He also notes that much extreme weather results from cyclical, natural forces.

There probably will be arguments about the validity of global warming until the last polar bear drowns. But the oppressive heat of July 2012 will be remembered for a long time -- or until its record is broken.

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