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Summer of Extreme Weather Ends with a Bang

Dry Lake Bed 2011 Drought
August 2011 ended a summer that brought record-breaking and near record-breaking warmth to the U.S. and the globe. (Image credit: NOAA)

Regardless of Hurricane Irene, severe rain and flooding, this August was the second warmest on record for the continental United States. Last month also spread the love around the globe, making it the third warmest August in 34 years.

In the continental U.S., August averaged 75.7 degrees F (24.3 degrees C), which is about 3.0 F (1.6 C) above the long-term average between 1901 and 2000. Meanwhile, precipitation across the nation fell below the long-term average, with large variability between regions, according to preliminary data in the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration's monthly report.

A few highlights from the month of August and the summer, according to NOAA:

-At the end of the month, Hurricane Irene swept up the East Coast, bringing torrential rain and flooding [In Photos: Hurricane Irene];

-Exceptional drought hit about 10 percent of the U.S., and upwards of 80 percent of Texas;

-Temperatures broke heat records in Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and New Mexico;

-Meanwhile, Washington and Oregon were the only states among the lower 48 with cooler-than average temperatures this summer;

-California had its wettest summer on record;

-Earlier in the summer, in June and July, the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest experienced record, or near-record flooding.

Across the globe, temperatures hit 0.59 F (0.33 C) above the 30-year average last month, making it the third warmest August on record globally, behind 1998 and 2010, according to John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at The University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Slightly warmer than normal temperatures also covered most of Europe and large portions of North Asia in August. Warmth reached the poles, too, with winter temperatures in the Antarctic averaging as much as 6.75 F (3.75 C) warmer than normal, according to experts at the university. 

You can follow LiveScience writer Wynne Parry on Twitter @Wynne_Parry. Follow LiveScience for the latest in science news and discoveries on Twitter @livescience and on Facebook.

Wynne was a reporter at The Stamford Advocate. She has interned at Discover magazine and has freelanced for The New York Times and Scientific American's web site. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah.