updated 11/18/2003 3:23:25 AM ET 2003-11-18T08:23:25

The United States experienced a warmer than average October this year, with high temperatures in the West making up for cooler conditions in the eastern third of the country, according to government data released Tuesday.

THE NATION’S average temperature was 57.0 degrees Fahrenheit, 2.3 degrees above the mean recorded between 1895 and 2003, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

California and Nevada experienced their hottest October on record, and 10 other western states were warmer on average. In Alaska, the average temperature was 6.4 degrees above the 1971-2000 mean.

However, cooler-than-average monthly temperatures prevailed across the Midwest and East Coast.

The mercury also rose globally, leading to the warmest October on record. Unusually warm temperatures in North America and parts of Asia and Africa more than made up for cooler than average temperatures in Europe and southern Australia.

The average global surface temperature for land and sea during October reached 1.2 degrees F above the long-term mean since 1880, when reliable measurements were first recorded, the agency said. The global ocean surface temperature also was the warmest on record, with El Nino conditions threatening to return by the end of November.

Back in the continental United States, 42 percent of the country was in moderate to extreme drought, the agency reported. Although fewer acres were consumed by wildfire this year than in 2002, hot, dry conditions contributed to the deadly wildfires that ravaged Southern California last month.

The West, Central and Southeast regions were drier than usual. In the Northeast, however, May to October was the wettest on record for that six-month period. Washington state also reported above average precipitation.

© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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