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2006 warmest on record in United States
Yahoo News/Reuters
January 9, 2007

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - The year 2006 was the warmest in the contiguous United States since record keeping began 112 years ago, due in large part to an unusually warm December, U.S. government weather forecasters said on Tuesday.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) preliminary forecast released in mid-December forecast 2006 as the third warmest year on record.

NOAA said in a written statement that no state was colder than average last month and five states had their warmest December on record -- Minnesota, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and New Hampshire.

The average temperature in the United States in 2006 was about 55 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2.2 degrees (1.2 degrees Celsius) above the average temperature recorded from 1901 to the end of 2000.

The warm start to the winter was tied partly to the "rarity" of Arctic outbreaks across the country because of El Nino, NOAA said.

El Nino, which is Spanish for "the little boy," is an abnormal warming of water in the Pacific Ocean every three or so years that can wreak havoc with global weather patterns. It usually brings warmer weather to much of the United States.

Weather forecasters said another factor in the record warmth was a long term warming trend some have linked to increases in greenhouse gases.

"This has made warmer-than-average conditions more common in the U.S. and other parts of the world," NOAA said. "It is unclear how much of the recent anomalous warmth was due to greenhouse-gas-induced warming and how much was due to the El Nino-related circulation pattern."

NOAA began keeping records in 1895.

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