The past year saw a mild winter give way to a balmier-than-normal spring, followed by a sweltering summer and high temperatures that lingered into the fall, all punctuated by extreme drought and intense storms.
Now 2012 is officially in the books as the hottest year on record for the continental United States and the second-worst for "extreme" weather such as hurricanes, droughts or floods, the U.S. government announced Tuesday.
Every state in the contiguous United States saw above-average temperatures in 2012, with 19 of them setting annual records of their own, NOAA said. Meanwhile, the country faced 11 weather disasters that topped $1 billion in losses each, including a lingering drought that covered 61% of the country at one point.
That drought shriveled crops across the American farm belt, leading to an expected rise in food prices in 2013, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. It also turned forests of the mountain West into stands of tinder that exploded into catastrophic wildfires over the summer, scorching millions of acres and destroying hundreds of homes.
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