It’s official: 2006 was warmest year ever for the contiguous U.S.

In 2006, the contiguous U.S. experienced its warmest year since records began in 1895 (also the year of the first volleyball game — who knew?). Every state in the Lower 48 had average temperatures above, well, average; New Jersey hit its highest temperature ever. The U.S. also logged its fourth-warmest December — little surprise to East Coast folk, who have been frolicking among cherry blossoms. Nationwide, residences have used 13.5 percent less energy for heat than usual this “winter.” Now that nine years in a row have landed in the top 25 warmest years ever for the Lower 48, even officials will admit something funny’s going on: “Burning of fossil fuels is causing an increase in greenhouse gases, and there’s a broad scientific consensus that [it] is producing climate change,” says Jay Lawrimore of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released the data. He added, “The expectation is that temperatures will continue to warm in the U.S. and globally.” Well, who’da thunk.