2006 Hotter Than Ever So Far in U.S.

The first eight months of 2006 was the warmest in the continental United States since record-keeping began in 1895, NOAA officials said today.

The period of June through August was the second warmest on record.

Above-average rainfall last month in the central and southwestern parts of the country alleviated drought conditions in some areas, but moderate-to-extreme drought continued to affect 40 percent of the country, according to a statement from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

The average June-August 2006 temperature for the contiguous United States, based on preliminary data, was 2.4 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average of 72.1 degrees. This summer, at an average of 74.5 degrees, was slightly cooler than the record of 74.7 degrees set in 1936 during the Dust Bowl era.

Eight of the past 10 summers have been warmer than the U.S. average for the same period going back to 1895.

Last year is thought to have been the warmest on record for the entire planet.