WASHINGTON (AP) _ Summer was a bit warmer than normal, but not a record, according to government climate experts.
Temperatures averaged 73.6 degrees Fahrenheit during the just-completed summer. That's 1.5 degrees above normal, making it the fifth warmest summer in records going back to 1895.
Rainfall averaged 8.4 inches across the country during the summer, close to the long-term average of 8.2 inches.
The information published Wednesday by the government's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., covers meteorological summer, which is June, July and August.
The agency said that while national temperatures were above normal, cooler than normal readings were seen in much of the Southeast.
The biggest heat wave struck in late July and early August, beginning in the southern Plains and stretching into the upper Midwest, with higher-than-normal temperatures extending into the northeastern United States by the second week of August.
Daily highs in the 90s and 100s, combined with high humidity, led to dangerous heat stress levels and numerous heat-related deaths.
It was the fourth warmest August on record with a nationally average temperature of 74.9, some 2.1 degrees above the long-term mean.
The wettest weather occurred along the central Gulf Coast region, as tropical storms Allison and Barry brought heavy rains during June and August, respectively.
Rainfall in the West did little to alleviate long-term drought, which worsened in many parts of the Northwest.
By the end of August, moderate to extreme drought conditions covered much of that region, as well as western Wyoming and Montana, the Climate Center reported.