There are times when computers lie.
It happened this week when federal climatologists fed last month's temperature readings into a computer at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.The computer whirred, crunched the numbers and announced that July's nationwide temperatures were dead, flat normal. The computer said that during the past 100 years, 50 Julys were warmer from coast to coast and 50 were colder.
That didn't happen.
The truth is that the country had an odd July that was very hot in New England and the fire-plagued West and cool in the Midwest and Southeast.
"It looks like we got back to a good, old traditional July this year after two unusually chilly ones," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration climatologist William Brown.
July's largest temperature departures occurred in the East as a hot, sticky air mass and thunderstorms baked and battered the Atlantic Seaboard from Virginia to Maine and inland to the Appalachians.
New England got the worst of it, as Rhode Island and Vermont recorded their second hottest July in 100 years, New Hampshire its third hottest, Massachusetts its fourth hottest and Connecticut and Maine their fifth hottest.
The worst weather was in the West, where a stagnant high pressure system caused a persistent heat wave and forest fires in seven states: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
The West also was disastrously dry. Colorado, New Mexico and Utah had their driest July since 1895; Arizona its fourth driest, and other states had severe rainfall deficits.
In contrast, cool weather pervaded the country's midsection, from Michigan to Texas. Rainy, cloudy weather caused unusual chilliness in Georgia (ninth coldest July in 100 years) and Mississippi (10th coldest).
"July actually was very hot or very chilly in most areas of the country," Brown said. "Few states had normal temperatures."
July's rainfalls were typically spotty, Brown added, except in the fiery West and in the Southeast, where Tropical Storm Alberto and a rash of thunderstorms caused above-normal precipitation.
"It's hard to believe, but despite all the rain Georgia got from Tropical Storm Alberto, the state had only its fourth wettest July in 100 years," Brown said.
The uneveness of last month's rainfall also has caused moderate droughts in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Texas.
"Much of New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania are in the throes of severe drought," Brown said.