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Largest natural disaster in U.S. history declared today

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Today the United States declared a natural disaster in more than 1,000 drought-stricken counties in 26 states.

The declaration from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), includes most of the south-west, which has been scorched by wildfires, parts of the midwestern corn belt, and the south-east. It covers counties in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Delaware and Hawaii. With the declaration, farmers in these areas will be able to receive relief funds from the Federal government, which amounts to about about a third of the country's farmers and ranchers who are suffering in the drought conditions.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than half the country is experiencing drought conditions - the largest percentage in the 12-year history of the service. "The warmest first half of any year on record for the contiguous United States," was also noted, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The average temperature was 4.5 degrees above average, said the NOAA. Twenty-eight states east of the Rockies set temperature records for the six-month period. The 12 months ending June 30 were also the warmest 12-month period of any on record, according to the NOAA.

As the climate warms, more people are taking notice and talking about climate change. "Many people around the world are beginning to appreciate that climate change is under way, that it's having consequences that are playing out in real time and, in the United States at least, we are seeing more and more examples of extreme weather and extreme climate-related events," Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the AP.

Although some people still refuse to accept the fact that we are now living with the consequences of man-made warming, evidence is piling up from scientists that man has indeed contributed to our warming climate. President Obama has made climate change his number one priority if re-elected into office.

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