Six-year-old Alexander Merrill of Sioux Falls, S.D., cooling off in a cloud of mist at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb., as temperatures reached triple digits in July.
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WASHINGTON — Government meteorologists say 2012 was by far the hottest year on record in the United States.
The average temperature was off the charts at over 55 degrees. That's a full degree warmer than the previous record of 1998. Normally, temperature records are broken by about a tenth of a degree.
Scientists blame the heat on global warming and weather variations. That includes the drought that gripped almost two-thirds of the nation.
Last July was also the hottest month on record. The entire year was 3.2 degrees warmer than the average for the 20th century.
The tally was released today by the National Climatic Data Center.
U.S. temperature records go back to 1895. They're based on reports from more than 1,200 stations across the Lower 48 states.
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