The temperature for the U.S. in 2008 was near the annual average experienced since 1895 and below normal for December, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said.

The average temperature in the contiguous states was 53 degrees Fahrenheit (11.7 degrees Celsius), 0.2 degrees above the 20th-century average, according to a report today from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, North Carolina.

U.S. temperatures have increased 0.12 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1895 and by 0.41 degrees in the last 50 years, NOAA data show.

Across the U.S., December bought an average temperature of 32.5 degrees, 0.9 degrees below the long-term norm. As a region, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin had its 10th-coldest December on record.

Parts of the Southwest U.S. bucked the trend. South Carolina saw its sixth-warmest December on record while in Georgia last month was the eighth-warmest, NOAA data show.

December snowstorms produced more than 2,000 daily snowfall records in the U.S. Satellite data show that 6.8 million square miles (17.6 million square kilometers) of North America were covered by snow in December, 0.4 million square miles above the 1966 to 2008 average.

Average precipitation last year was 30.48 inches, 1.34 inches above the long-term norm.