Last year’s weather pattern ended in the record books as the most extreme – and hottest – year for the Lower 48. So far, 2013 has yet to break this trend.

According to the latest “State of the Climate” report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), January was warmer and wetter than average, but much of the moisture missed the areas that needed it most -- the Plains. Lakes Michigan and Huron fell to their lowest levels last month, the lowest occurring since 1918 when record-keeping began.  

Other significant weather events skipped over the parched heartland. Snow coverage dominated in the Northwest and the East, while a severe weather outbreak along the Gulf Coast brought rain -- and tornadoes -- to the region.

By the end of January, more than 57 percent of the contiguous United States was in drought, with the majority of the highest levels of drought located in the nation’s midsection.

Temperatures across the continental U.S. kept with the warming trend, reported at 1.6 degrees F above average. Across the High Plains, temperatures were generally below normal, though some weather systems pulled warmer air from the South for a wild temperature swing. Topeka, Kan., for example, set a record on Jan. 28 with a record-high temperature of 77 degrees F.

Click here to read the full “State of the Climate” report.