02/14/2012 12:03 am ET

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2012: Kate Upton, Bar Refaeli Appear In SI Issue (PHOTOS)

For anyone overly upset that Punxsutawney Phil recently predicted six more weeks of winter, let us offer five very welcome -- and very lovely -- signs that summer will be here before you can say "body paint."

Arguably among our most reliable heralds of rising temperatures, Sports Illustrated's annual Swimsuit Issue has arrived. Packed with photos of 18 of the world's most beautiful models, as well as cameos by various athletes, Swimsuit 2012 is arriving on newsstands, in your mailbox and on just about every mobile device that you could possibly use to appreciate the fine work of distinguished photographers like Walter Iooss Jr. -- or, perhaps, just to appreciate Iooss' photographs of Kate Upton.

Along with Swimsuit 2012 cover girl Kate Upton, Bar Refaeli returns to SI in 2012. The Israeli beauty graces a feature dubbed "Bar & the Boys" that includes photographs of her with U.S. Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps, Lob City point guard Chris Paul and tennis superstar Rafael Nadal.

Three notable female athletes appear in the increasingly popular Body Paint feature. The 2012 group of painted ladies includes U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan, U.S. Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin and golfer Natalie Gulbis.

Without further ado, please enjoy a sneak peek at some of the images from Swimsuit 2012, including the captivating cover:

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2012