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July 2012 was the hottest month on record for the contiguous (lower 48) United States, according to the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It turns out that the month was pretty warm globally as well, lining up as the fourth warmest July since modern record-keeping began in 1880.

Two weeks after a new record was set in the Arctic Ocean for the least amount of sea ice coverage in the satellite record, the ice surrounding Antarctica reached its annual winter maximum—and set a record for a new high. Sea ice extended over 19.44 million square kilometers (7.51 million square miles) in 2012.

Arctic sea ice reached its maximum extent for the winter of 2011–2012 on March 18, the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) has announced. (Extent is the total area of ocean in which ice concentration is at least 15 percent.) With a total extent of 15.24 million square kilometers (5.88 million square miles), sea ice was below the 1979–2000 average, but slightly above the record low, which was recorded during the winter of 2010–2011.

As in the western United States and northern Canada, Russia is ablaze. On July 11, 2012, more than 25,000 hectares (97 square miles) of forests were burning, according to the Russian Federal Forestry Agency. Most of the fires—uncontrolled wildfires in boreal forests—were in central and eastern Siberia.

A huge, lingering ridge of high pressure over the eastern half of the United States brought summer-like temperatures to North America in March 2012. The warm weather shattered records across the central and eastern United States and much of Canada.

In early July 2012, two simultaneous hurricanes blew over the eastern Pacific Ocean: Hurricane Emilia and Hurricane Daniel. The first of the two storms to form, Daniel started as a tropical depression on July 4. The storm had strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane by 12:20 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time on July 8, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image.

In the top image, the margin of hazy air reaches the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic) and the Turks and Caicos Islands, though the eastern tip of Cuba (foreground) remains clear. This image—taken by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) in July 2012—attracted the interest of scientists at NASA’s Johnson Space Center because the margin between dust haze and clear atmosphere lies in almost the same location as it appeared in another astronaut image in July…