The first 11 months of 2012 were the warmest January through November on record for the contiguous United States, according to new data released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Drought also continues as a problem, both in Colorado and nationally, according to NOAA.
Colorado has experienced its driest January-November ever, with 9.52 inches of precipitation, which is 5.57 inches below the state's historical average for that period. Nebraska and Wyoming are also enduring their driest years to date.
According to NOAA scientists, the average temperature for the United States -- except Alaska and Hawaii -- for January-November was 57.1. That's 3.3 degrees above the 20th century average, and 1 degree above the previous record warmth for the same period, recorded in 1934, in the Dust Bowl era.
The latest statistics from NOAA indicate that it is virtually certain that 2012 will ultimately stand as the warmest year on record, exceeding 1998, when the average temperature was 54.3 degrees.
"It's significant that we're beating the previous record (for warmth), but we're beating it by a very large margin," said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., which has 118 years of comparable data for the 48 contiguous United States.
"By the end of December, we will have 366 days of data for the entire United States," Crouch said. "Averaging over that large an area, for that many days, that is a lot of data, and having a difference of 1 degree, that is a large jump to make in one year."
While the record warmth is catching experts' attention, so is the drought.
"The drought is interesting because it is actually more tangible to people on the ground," Crouch said. "It has huge impacts on agriculture, now with the delayed or non-emergence of the winter wheat crop, limiting household water use, and continuing massive water shortages causing issues with commercial shipping on the Mississippi River."
Bob Glancy, a meteorologist at NOAA's National Weather Service office in Boulder, noted that Denver's November average temperature was 43.5 degrees, 5.2 degrees above normal. Daily Camera weather historian William Callahan reported that Boulder was 4 degrees warmer than usual in November.
Referring to the Fern Lake Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, which has been burning since Oct. 9, Glancy said, "In fact, we have a person deployed on that fire, and that is the first time I ever remember that happening in December."
Glancy said that for the short term, however, a change is in store for the Boulder area.
"It does look like we're starting to see a pattern change here in December," Glancy said. "We've been under a big upper (high-pressure) ridge, and there is a series of upper troughs that are going to come down, putting the four letter 's-word' in our forecast for this weekend. We may see several opportunities for getting more seasonal weather here, in the next few weeks of December."
On Thursday, Glancy was not ready to put a potential snow total for the Boulder area's weekend forecast, beyond saying "some measurable snow" is likely Saturday night into Sunday morning.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Charlie Brennan at 303-473-1327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.