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Lower 48 sees 2nd-warmest 7-month start to year

The Lower 48 had its second-warmest seven-month start to a year on record, with an average January-July temperature of 54.5 degrees Fahrenheit for the contiguous U.S., which is 3.2 degrees above the 20th century average, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in its latest "State of the Climate" report. This was slightly warmer than the same period in 2006 but 1.2 degrees cooler than the record reached in 2012.

Above-average temperatures spanned the nation for the year-to-date period, with the exception of locations in the Northwest that had a cooler-than-average seven-month start to the year. Record and near-record warmth early in the year led to much-above-average temperatures for most locations in the Southwest and from the Rockies to the East Coast. Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina each had their warmest January-July in the 123-year period of record-keeping.

Year-to-date daytime temperature tied as the fourth warmest on record as it averaged at 66.3 degrees F, or 3.0 degrees above average. The average nighttime temperature for the same period was 42.7 degrees F, or 3.4 degrees above average, making it the second warmest in the period of record.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, or REDTI, January-July temperature-related energy demand for the contiguous U.S. was 95% below average and ranked as the second lowest value on record.

The nationally averaged precipitation for the January-July period was 20.68 inches, or 2.59 inches above average. This is the seventh wettest year-to-date on record and wettest since 1998.

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Year-to-date precipitation was above average for a large part of the contiguous U.S., with much-above-average precipitation observed for nine states across the West and from the Great Lakes to Northeast, but was below average for the Northern Rockies and adjacent Plains. Wisconsin had a record wet January-July period, while North Dakota had its third driest seven-month start to a year and the driest since 1936.

The year-to-date period was capped by the 10th-warmest July on record, with an average contiguous U.S. temperature of 75.7 degrees F, or 2.1 degrees above average.

Above-average temperatures were observed from the West Coast to the Rocky Mountains in July, with several locations in the Southwest and Great Basin, such as Bakersfield, Calif.; Reno, Nev.; and Salt Lake City being record warm. Portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast were also warmer than average, with Miami also notching its hottest July and hottest month on record.

Near- to below-average July temperatures were seen in parts of the Great Plains, South, Midwest and Northeast. In the Midwest and Northeast, above-average precipitation was associated with suppressed daytime maximum temperatures.

Average daytime temperature in July tied as the 14th warmest on record at 88.6 degrees F, or 1.9 degrees above average. The average July nighttime temperature was 62.8 degrees F, or 2.2 degrees above average, ranking as the sixth warmest since record-keeping began.

Lower 48 temperature-related energy demand in July was 69% above average, making it the 16th highest value ever recorded, according to NOAA's REDTI.

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July precipitation total was near the median in the period of record at 2.74 inches, or 0.04 inch below average. Precipitation was below average from the Northwest through the Northern Rockies and into parts of the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest, as well as for portions of central and southern Great Plains, Southeast and northern New England, but was above average for the Southwest, and across the Midwest into parts of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Montana had its second driest July on record, while areas of central California were also record dry.

The Aug. 1 "U.S. Drought Monitor" report showed drought in 11.8% of the contiguous U.S., up about 3.7% compared to the end of June. Drought conditions improved across parts of the Southwest, southern High Plains and in the Washington, D.C., area, but intensified and expanded in the Northwest, Northern Rockies and Central to Northern Plains due to below-average precipitation and above-average temperatures. Drought and abnormally dry conditions developed in portions of the Southeast and northern Maine.