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Keywords:

  • drought;
  • heatwave;
  • extreme temperatures

The spring and summer (March through August) of 2011–2012 set many new climatological records across the contiguous United States, including the hottest month in the instrumental record: July 2012. Various measures of temperature extremes and drought severity serve to put this period into historical perspective (1895 to present) and to assess to what extent the recent anomalies are consistent with observed trends. During spring and summer, anomalously high temperatures can combine with unusually dry conditions to amplify temperature and drought feedbacks. Observational data from 2011 and 2012 are strongly suggestive of such an amplification and reveal a number of significant trends for various measures of high temperatures in the United States.