Globally, January was the fourth warmest and fifth driest on record

n13-iconU.S. News and World Report: Believe it or not, last month was the warmest January since 2007 and the fourth warmest on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

It also marked the driest month for the contiguous United States since 2003, and the fifth driest since records started being kept in 1880.

The global average temperature for both land and ocean surfaces was 54.8 degrees last month, about 1.17 degrees above the 20th-century global average.

Notably, while “below-normal” and “much-below-normal” freezing temperatures swept across the eastern half of the United States, warm temperatures “engulfed” much of west, as well as Australia, Argentina, Austria, China, France, Spain and Switzerland, NOAA said.

California, Nevada and Arizona, in particular, also saw temperatures “much-above-normal.”

Precipitation, meanwhile, was below normal for more than 30 states, and at record lows for New Mexico, which received just 5 percent of its average January rainfall. The drought, overall, expanded to 37.4 percent of the contiguous United States, up from 31 percent at the beginning of the month.

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