Last year was the hottest year on record for the contiguous United States. And the Upper Colorado River Basin had its driest year on record, according to the latest National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climate report released Tuesday.
Record-breaking temperatures and extended warm periods dominated the southwest. The U.S. Drought Monitor shows more of the West -- 77 percent -- is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought. New Mexico and Colorado have been especially hard hit in terms of dryness over the last two years.
Warm temperatures plus the lack of precipitation and snowpack has all contributed to wildfires in those states, with New Mexico experiencing its largest on record in 2012, and Arizona in 2011. Texas had the most number of wildfires of any state in 2012 -- about 16 percent of the national total.
Across the country the number of fires burned was actually below average, but the size of the fires has increased substantially, according to national statistics.
Federal records go back to 1895.