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It’s official: Last year was warmest on record in America

As if we didn’t already know THIS:

Last year was officially the hottest ever recorded for the lower-48 states. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric tallied weather and temperature data for 2012, and found that the year was both the warmest and the second-most extreme for weather ever recorded for the contiguous U.S.

According to NOAA’s latest “State of the Climate” report, the average temperature for the lower-48 states was 55.3°, which is 3.2°F above the 20th century average, and 1.0°F above the previous record-year of 1998.

Last year was marked by an historic drought, above-average wildfires, multiple freak storms that wiped out power to millions, and multiple severe heat waves. According to the U.S. Climate Extremes Index, 2012 was the second most extreme year on record — coming in below 1998, the previous hottest year on record.

Precipitation was also down significantly in 2012. Average rainfall for the lower-48 states was 2.57 inches below average, contributing to the severe drought that gripped the nation and helping make the wildfire season the third most destructive on record.

Meanwhile, in Australia, where it’s now summertime, a HEAT WAVE of historic proportions grips the continent:

A “dome of heat,” has settled over Australia since the start of the new year, creating an historic heat wave. The temperatures have nurtured firesin five of Australia’s six states, includingat least 90 wildfires throughout New South Wales in southeastern Australia, as well as the Island of Tasmania. In the latter case, the fires consumed over 100 homes and other buildings, 60,000 hectares of land (approximately 148,000 acres) and left up to 100 peopleunaccounted for as of January 6.

“We saw tornadoes of fire just coming across towards us,” one Tasmanian survivor said. “The next thing we knew everything was on fire, everywhere, all around us.” Another local resident said that“the trees just exploded” as he tried to help fire crews in the township of Murdunna, which was mostly destroyed by the blaze.

The heat wave is also setting new records: On Monday the national average temperature hit 40.33 degrees Centigrade (104.6 degrees Fahrenheit), topping the previous December 21, 1976 record 40.17 degrees Centigrade.

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