Recent heat waves scorching the country have helped make the last 12 months the hottest in the last century, according to scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The hot temperatures have created perfect circumstances for wildfires to rip through the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and Wyoming. The weather has also worsened the extreme drought present in the Ohio Valley and fueled rapid moving storms, called a derecho, which cut power to 3.4 million people between Illinois and Virginia in late June.

“The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during June was 71.2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 2.0 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average,” NOAA said in its June 2012 State of the Climate National Overview. “The June temperatures contributed to a record-warm first half of the year and the warmest 12-month period the nation has experienced since record-keeping began in 1895.”

NOAA said the heat is responsible for the “deadly flash floods in and around Duluth, Minn.,” as well as Tropical Storm Debby, which released a foot of rain over Florida. According to CBS News, the heat was responsible for 46 deaths nationwide.

The heat became so overpowering on July 6 that the wheels of a U.S. Airways jet idling on a melting tarmac in Washington, D.C. sank into the pavement. Passengers were delayed for three hours while the plane was removed.

Alexis Taylor

AFRO Staff Writer