The 1930's dust bowl still registers as one of the most difficult ecological struggles America has had to deal with over the past 200 years. So far, 2012 is outpacing all past years on record, including the 1930's, for being the hottest yet in the continental United States going all the way back t0 1895.

Montana very nearly made the record books all on its own. By calculating the average temperatures over the first eight months of the year, meteorologist Chris Gibson with the National Weather Service in Missoula says that,

"the first eight months of the year have been the second hottest on record and the only warmer year was 1934 . . . the kickoff of the dust bowl of the 1930's."

The hot and dry temperatures have been especially hard on farmers with crops struggling under the excessive drought. Although the summer itself only ranks as the 9th hottest for Montana,  average temperatures spiked in March (spring)  and July stretching out the duration of heat and helping to put the year so far in the history books.

Looking just at the Summer, southeast Montana had its 5th warmest temperatures while western Montana registered its 24th warmest summer. Both halves of the state had abnormally high temperatures, but separate weather systems helped to keep the west much cooler.

According to Gibson, the smoke in the sky is actually helping to keep temperatures artificially low. Smoke absorbs or reflects the sun's rays causing the atmosphere beneath to be about 1 to 2 degrees cooler than on a clear day.