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U.S. records warmest March; more than 15,000 warm temperature records broken

NOAA scientists have reported that March 2012 was the warmest on record for the contiguous United States, dating back to 1895 (click here to see an interesting animation displaying the record temperatures).  The average temperature for the month was 51.1 °F, 8.6 °F above the 20th century March average.  Only 1 other month, January 2006, has experienced a larger departure from its average.  According to preliminary data, March saw over 15,000 warm temperature records broken across the contiguous United States, and every state experienced at least one record warm daily temperature.  There were also 21 instances when the overnight lows were as warm or warmer than the previous record highs for those particular locations.  March 2012 was the warmest on record for 25 states, while ranking in the top 10 for an additional 15 states.  The same persistent pattern resulted in cooler-than-average conditions in the Pacific Northwest.  The Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains were much wetter than average while the interior West, Northeast and Florida were drier than average, although the nationally-averaged precipitation total was slightly above average.  According to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, there were 223 preliminary tornado reports during March 2012, as compared to the typical average of 80.  The March 2-3 outbreak across the Ohio Valley and Southeast caused 40 fatalities and an estimated $1.5 billion in damage.

The aggregated January-March average temperature for the contiguous United States (42.0 °F) was also a record, 6.0 °F above the long-term average.  January-March 2012 was the warmest on record for the 25 states east of the Rockies and ranked in the top 10 warmest for an additional 16 states.  No state in the contiguous United States experienced three-month temperatures below average.  Nationally-averaged precipitation for the three-month period was slightly below average, with wetter than average conditions prevailing across the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains and drier than average conditions in the Intermountain West, Ohio Valley and the east coast.

The nationally-averaged temperature for the six-month period defined as the cold season (October 2011-March 2012) was 3.8 °F above average, the second-warmest on record for the contiguous United States.  The previous 12-month period (April 2011-March 2012) was the warmest on record at 55.4 °F, 2.6 °F above the 20th century average.

Gary Monitz

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