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US logs hottest June on record after 'exceptional heat waves'

After 127 years of record keeping, 2021 set a troubling new high for temperatures in the US.

This NASA map shows air temperatures across the US on June 15, 2021 as extreme hit struck parts of the country.

Joshua Stevens/GEOS-5 data from the Global Modeling and Assimilation Office at NASA GSFC

If you thought June was wildly hot in the US, you were right. 

"Exceptional heat waves from coast to coast helped push June 2021 to the No. 1 spot on the list of hottest Junes on record for the US," said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a statement on Friday.

NOAA ran the numbers and found the average June temperature across the contiguous US was 72.6 degrees Fahrenheit (22.5 degrees Celsius), topping the previous record set in 2016 by just under a degree. June came in at 4.2 degrees Fahrenheit above average. The records cover a span of 127 years.

It wasn't just an issue of degrees, but also one of extremes. While average precipitation across the US matched what was historically expected, some states got way too much rain, while others continued to suffer drought conditions.

The heat record wasn't the only grim news delivered by NOAA. The organization also counted eight billion-dollar weather and climate disasters during the first six months of the year. The tally included four severe storms, two flooding events, one winter storm deep freeze and a drought fed by heat.

The winter storm and cold wave of February that triggered massive blackouts across Texas came in as the costliest disaster at about $20 billion (£14.5 billion) in direct losses. 

Extreme weather is a hallmark of the worsening climate crisis, which is having a global impact from Antarctica to Siberia. The western US continues to grapple with severe drought conditions and it's likely more heat records will fall.