More than just last winter’s harsh weather is making this summer seem so steamy.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), last month was the warmest July on record for the Northern Hemisphere.

In fact, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature made July the second warmest on record, period, behind 1998, as well as the warmest averaged January-July on record.

At the same time, the folks at NOAA say La Niña conditions developed during July 2010, as sea-surface temps continued to drop across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. La Niña is expected to strengthen and last through the Northern Hemisphere winter 2010-2011.

In the U.S., a La Niña typically means more cold and storms than average across the North, while the South gets warmer, drier conditions with fewer storms than normal.

According to NOAA, La Niña temperature and precipitation impacts are typically weak across the U.S. in the summer and early fall, but strengthen considerably in late fall and winter. Also, La Niña can contribute to increased Atlantic hurricane activity by decreasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean.

“All indications are for considerable activity during the next several months,” says Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “As we’ve seen in past years, storms can come on quickly during the peak months of the season. There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record.” August to October is peak hurricane season.

For the week ending Aug. 8, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service:

Corn – 97% is at or beyond the silking stage, 10% more than last year and 3% more than average. Near-to-above-average temps throughout the major corn-producing areas promoted rapid phenological development of the crop during the week. 52% is at or beyond the dough stage, 29% ahead of last year and 12% ahead of the average pace. 14% is at or beyond the denting stage, 9% ahead of last year and 3% ahead of average. 71% is in Good to Excellent condition, 3% more than a year ago.

Soybeans – 93% was at or beyond the blooming stage, 8% ahead of last year and 3% ahead of the average. Blooming was complete or nearly complete throughout much of the Corn Belt and Delta. Nationally, 71% was setting pods, 19% ahead of last year and 4% more than the five-year average. Pod setting was 10% or more ahead of normal in Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and North Dakota. 66% is rated in Good or Excellent condition, the same as last year.

Winter wheat – 87% is harvested, 2% behind last year and 6% behind the average pace. Despite producers utilizing nearly a week of days suitable for fieldwork to harvest 10% or more of their winter wheat crop, double-digit delays remained in Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington.

Spring wheat – 20% is harvested, 13% ahead of last year but 8% behind the five-year average. A week of mostly warm, sunny weather allowed producers in three of the four largest spring wheat-producing states – Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota – ample time to harvest 12% or more of their crop. 82% is in Good to Excellent condition, 10% more than last year.

Sorghum – 72% of the crop was at or beyond the heading stage, which is 14% ahead of last year and 5% less than the average. Heading was on par with or ahead of last year and the average in all estimating states except New Mexico, where progress was 2% behind last year and 12% behind the 5-year average. 31% of the crop is coloring, which is on par with last year but 1% less than average. Beneficial rains fell in the Northern High Plains of Texas, providing nearly ideal growing conditions; statewide, coloring remained slow with overall progress falling to over two weeks behind the average pace by week’s end. With activity limited to the Delta and Texas, 22% of the sorghum crop reached maturity, 4% behind last year and 2% behind the 5-year average. 66% is in Good to Excellent condition, 17% more than the same time last year.

Oats – 68% is harvested, 26% ahead of last year and 5% ahead of normal. 77% is reported in Good or Excellent condition, 21% more than at the same time a year ago.

Barley – 16% is harvested, which is 12% ahead of last year but 12% behind the five-year average. Although producers in North Dakota – the largest barley-producing state – used nearly a week of days suitable for fieldwork to harvest 22% of their crop, overall progress remained 12% behind the five-year average. 83% is reported in Good or Excellent condition, 5% more than at the same time a year ago.

Pasture – 57% of the nation’s pasture and range is rated as Good or Excellent, 6% more than at the same time last year. 15% is rated Poor or Very Poor, compared to 22% a year ago. States reporting 30% or more of pasture as Poor or Very Poor were: Alabama (32%); Arizona (40%); Maryland (50%); North Carolina (47%); Pennsylvania (41%); South Carolina (25%); Virginia (67%); and West Virginia (41%).