Drought-hit U.S. busts heat record from Dust Bowl days

Thursday, August 9, 2012
By Paul Martin

Sam Nelson and Deborah Zabarenko
August 08, 2012

CHICAGO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the throes of a historic drought in the United States, a government agency said on Wednesday that it broke a heat record in July that had stood since the devastating Dust Bowl summer of 1936.

Reeling from widespread crop damage in July, Midwest farmers found some comfort on Wednesday in forecasts for rain over the next 10 days, a prospect that could take the edge off rising grain prices and concerns of food inflation worldwide.

The scorching month of July turned out to be the hottest month in the continental United States on record, beating the hottest month recorded in July 1936, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

The January-to-July period was also the warmest since modern record-keeping began in 1895, and the warmest 12-month period, eclipsing the last record set just a month ago. It was the fourth time in as many months that U.S. temperatures broke the hottest-12-months record, according to NOAA.

Analysts expect the drought, the worst since 1956, will yield the smallest corn crop in six years, which has fed record-high prices and tight supplies. It would be the third year of declining corn production despite large plantings.

Drought and heat fed each other in July, according to Jake Crouch, a scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“The hotter it gets, the drier it gets, the hotter it gets,” Crouch said, explaining that dry soils in the summer tended to drive up daytime temperatures further.

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