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'Warmest year' looking more likely for 2012 across continental US

With less than three months left this year, it's looking increasingly likely that 2012 will go down as the warmest year on record in the continental United States.

January-September was already the warmest first nine months, according to temperature data released Tuesday by the National Climatic Data Center.

Moreover, six of eight scenarios charted by the center have 2012 ending warmer than any other year in records that go back to 1895. The only scenarios where that would not happen are if the last quarter is among the 10 coldest on record.

Last month was the 23rd warmest September on record and, more significantly, marked "the 16th consecutive month with above-average temperatures for the Lower 48," the center said in its monthly State of the Climate Report.

January-September temperatures averaged 59.8 degrees Fahrenheit -- 3.8 degrees F above the 20th-century average.

This year has already seen the warmest March and July on record, and, except for September, every other month was in the top 20 warmest, weather.com noted.


Looking ahead, the U.S. Climate Prediction Center last month posted its three-month outlook, citing "enhanced chances for above normal temperatures from the Southwest through the Great Plains to the Northeast."

Weather.com meteorologist Nick Wiltgen noted that only eight of the past 117 years have had an October-December cold enough to drag the U.S. average in 2012 below the "warmest year" record now shared by 2006 and 1998.

In September, Wiltgen calculated that through August "the odds of not surpassing the warmest year on record are about 13 percent."

Now, he tweeted on Tuesday, those odds are about 7 percent.

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