updated 12/13/2007 12:05:16 PM ET 2007-12-13T17:05:16

It's shaping up to be one of the warmest years on record.

The annual temperature for 2007 across the contiguous United States is expected to be near 54.3 degrees Fahrenheit — making the year the eighth warmest since records were first begun in 1895, according to preliminary data from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center.

Worldwide, temperatures were also in record territory. The global surface temperature for 2007 is on pace to be the fifth warmest since those records were first started in 1880, the report said.

"Within the last 30 years, the rate of warming is about three times greater than the rate of warming since 1900," said Jay Lawrimore, chief of the climate monitoring branch at the center. "The annual temperatures continue to be either near-record or at record levels year in and year out."

"Some of the largest and most widespread warm anomalies occurred from eastern Europe to central Asia," the data center said.

"Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997," it added. "The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6°C and 0.7°C since the start of the twentieth century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend."

"When you see these numbers, it’s screaming out at you, 'This is global warming,'" said climate scientist Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria in Canada. "It’s the beginning and it’s unequivocal."

Weaver said previous warm weather records probably would have been broken this year were it not for some cooling toward the end of the year because of La Nina — a cooling of the mid-Pacific equatorial region.

Only Texas was below average
In the United States, a vast swath was warmer than usual this year, leading to severe drought conditions and wildfires in the West and Southeast. Texas, the Lone Star state, stood alone, the only one to record below average temperatures.

The months of March and August were the second warmest in more than 100 years. Six states — Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida — had the warmest August month on record.

In 113 years of record keeping, all but four states — Texas, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont — experienced either above average or significantly above average temperatures from January through November. Wyoming had its second warmest year; Idaho and Utah had the fourth warmest years on record.

North Carolina had the driest year so far. From midsummer into December, more than three-quarters of the Southeast was in drought, the report said.

The issue in Texas, Lawrimore said, was too much rain that led to flooding and the wettest summer on record. The cloudy and rainy weather for much of the year contributed to the cooler temperatures for the state, he said.

The past year was particularly rough in the Southeast and West, which experienced serious drought conditions. More than three-quarters of the Southeast was in drought from midsummer into December, the report said.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration will update its data in early January to reflect the last few weeks of December.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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