Weather and Natural Disasters

Wildfire-plagued fall warmest on record for US, says NOAA

The remains of a business smolders after a wildfire November 29, 2016 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
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Average temperatures for the United States from September through November, were the warmest in 122-years of record keeping, according to a report released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The month of November was (merely) the second warmest November on record, after Nov. 1999. Average November temperatures were at least above the historical mean in every one of the lower 48 states.

This means 2016 is still on track to be one of the warmest years on record for the U.S. and for the planet.

The NOAA report also noted that precipitation and drought readings around the country were dominated by "regional extremes" — while it was the fourth wettest autumn for the Northwest, much of the South and Southeast felt some of their driest autumn months on record — with the exception of the coastal states affected by Hurricane Matthew.

Overall, the amount of drought-stricken land across the contiguous U.S. grew from 19.5 percent at the end of August to 31.5 percent by the end of November.

Wildfires raging across southern states contributed to November being the second worst month for wildfires since the agency began recording fires in 2000.

U.S. temperatures are tracking the broader measurements taken for the whole planet. Last month, NOAA reported that global temperature averages from January to October were the highest since the beginning of records in 1880. The agency will issue a new report including November's global average temperatures later this month.

The planet could cool off further through the end of the year, meaning it might not unseat 2015 as Earth's hottest year on the books. This in part might be due to the waning effect of El Nino and a transition to La Nina, said NOAA meteorologist Jessica Blunden on a call with reporters in late November. However, Blunden also said that "however they stack up" the last three years are going to be the three warmest years dating back to 1880.