“On our broadcast tonight,” Brian Williams teased his lead story Wednesday night, “extreme heat, but more than that: the official confirmation that came today that it has never been this hot in America.” Citing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report  which pegged the average July temperature in the lower 48 at 77.6 degrees fahrenheit, Williams proceeded to hyperventilate over the “official word that arrived today that” July was “the hottest of all time since they started keeping records.”
Yet, as fill-in CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer noted in a short item deep in his newscast, the “previous record for a single month [was] 77.4 in July 1936 during the dust bowl.” [jpg ]
So, all of NBC’s excitement came from temperatures 0.2 tenths of a degree hotter than before the widespread industrialization blamed for global warming and before the widespread development which causes heat islands that mean temperature stations which used to be in isolated areas are sitting next to pavement and buildings.
A dire Rehema Ellis, who like Williams didn’t bother to inform viewers it was just about as hot in 1936, related: “The signs have been everywhere, highways buckling, planes trapped in melted asphalt, cracked Earth across the Midwest. Today the government scientists who monitor the nation’s weather made it official. July 2012 was the hottest month ever.”
She warned “the average temperature for this July was 77.6 degrees. That is 3.3 degrees hotter than the 20th century average.”
From the top of the Wednesday, August 8 NBC Nightly News, transcript provided by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
BRIAN WILLIAMS, IN LONDON: And good evening from London, and once again tonight we begin right back in the U.S. This time it’s about the summer of 2012 and the now official word that arrived today that the last month and the last year were the hottest ever recorded. The hottest of all time since they started keeping records. Of course, in terms of drought, we’re feeling the effects this year. But look at the numbers from just today. Little Rock, Arkansas, high today of 101, Tulsa 105, Salt Lake City 103. And in Phoenix, Arizona, a new record today of 114. And the news here appears to be we better get used to it. NBC's Rehema Ellis starts us off tonight.
REHEMA ELLIS: The signs have been everywhere, highways buckling, planes trapped in melted asphalt, cracked Earth across the Midwest. Today the government scientists who monitor the nation’s weather made it official. July 2012 was the hottest month ever.
JAKE CROUCH, NOAA: It is a big deal. We have over 1,400 months of records dating back to 1895. And we look at a month of data, you know, there’s a lot of observations that go into that.
ELLIS: In fact, the average temperature for this July was 77.6 degrees. That is 3.3 degrees hotter than the 20th century average. And that’s just July. The biggest impact of all this heat is the drought.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Thirty-three years we’ve always had a crop, but it’s not looking good right now.
ELLIS: More than half of the country experienced moderate to exceptional drought conditions at the end of July. That’s up almost seven percent from the month before.
CROUCH: It is a large increase for any given month. You know, seven percent of the country. That is a significant portion of the country. And most of that has been driven by the warmer than average temperatures.
ELLIS: Heat and drought conditions set the perfect stage for wildfires. Across the West and Plains states, wildfires have ravaged the landscape and people’s lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: This is just what's left of our house. It’s just dust and ash really.
ELLIS: In July alone, more than two million acres burned nationwide. And the heat impacts lakes and rivers, too. Throughout the Midwest, inland lakes with 80-degree plus temperatures are causing massive fish kills. What does it all mean?
CROUCH: We could be looking at a new normal. The long-term temperature trend across the U.S. is increasing.
ELLIS: A trend many Americans may not want to think about warming up to. The White House has authorized an additional $30 million to help those in areas most affected by the drought. And here in Astoria, Queens, until just a few moments ago, the quickest fix to all this would have been a dip in the pool as this heat shows no signs of letting up. Brian?
-- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here  to follow Brent Baker on Twitter.