July 2012 marked the hottest month on record ever for the lower 48 states, according to a report released by NOAA Wednesday.
With an average temperature of 77.6 degrees F in the contiguous U.S., the month of July surpassed the 20th century average by 3.3 degrees F.
The previous warmest July was in 1936 when the average U.S. temperature was 77.4 degrees F.
The hottest locations in July were mostly stretched across the Midwest and central Plains, areas largely plagued by intense drought.
"Droughts tend to feed and sustain heat waves," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
July's warmth may have been intensified by dry conditions, which has caused a devastating corn crop loss and the potential for a significant soybean loss.
"A lack of water in the ground has allowed the sun to heat the surface much more efficiently than it normally would, due to less water being evaporated," AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
"Evaporation is a cooling process. In July, all the sun's energy went into heating instead of evaporation and that likely added to the extremes a bit," Anderson said.
The drought is the most widespread since 1956, according to NOAA, with the most locations facing moderate to severe drought since the 1930s dustbowl.
Additionally, July's record warmth contributed to the record-warm first seven months of the year and the warmest 12-month period the U.S. has experienced since record keeping began in 1895.
"We've had a lot of extremes globally and in the U.S. We can't say definitely that climate change is causing it, but it's definitely a suspect," said Anderson.
"But the planet is warming; that's unmistakeable. The frequency of extreme heat and drought events is likely to increase."
More snow is on the way for Cleveland before the weekend comes to a close.
Temperatures are not expected to get above the freezing point for the Seattle until early this week.
The worst of the ice headed to the eastern U.S. will focus on the I-81 corridor from Virginia to southern Pennsylvania.
While heavy snow and ice are not expected to fall over much of the Midwest Sunday into Monday, some slippery roads and travel disruptions are likely.
As the saying goes, no two snowflakes are exactly alike. Russian photographer Alexey Kljatov's collection of high-resolution magnified flakes makes this widely-held belief more convincing.
Fresh cold and the return of Santa Ana winds are in store for Southern California to start the new week.
LaMesa, CA (1938)
100 degrees, warmest ever in US for Dec. Downtown LA had 91.7 degrees, only 90 degree reading in December.
Elkton, MD (1963)
Jet liner exploded near Elkton, MD killing all 81 on board. Lightning is believed to have caused the explosion of residual fuel under one of the outboard wing tanks as plane passed through a vicious thunderstorm.