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Record Warm March Temperatures Continue Record-Breaking Periods

More than 15,000 warm temperature records broken during March

Common Dreams staff

The contiguous United States experienced the warmest March ever in the warmest start of the year ever in the warmest 12-month period ever, according to new data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The record warm March temperatures hit the entire nation with each state having experienced at least one record warm daily temperature. The NOAA reports that there were over 15,000 warm temperature records broken during the month.

The NOAA also connected the record breaking March temperatures to the slew of tornadoes saying that "warmer-than-average conditions across the eastern U.S. also created an environment favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes."

The first three months of the year were record warm for the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 42.0°F, 6.0°F above the long-term average.

The April 2011 to March 2012 period, which included the second hottest summer and fourth warmest winter, was the warmest such period in the contiguous U.S..

Jerry Meehl, climate scientist: “Everybody has this uneasy feeling. This is weird. This is not good.”Looking at whether human-caused global warming was a factor, NOAA analysts wrote in a draft assessment on "Meteorological March Madness 2012": "Our current estimate of the impact of GHG (greenhouse gases) forcing is that it likely contributed on the order of 5% to 10% of the magnitude of the heat wave during 12-23 March. And the probability of heatwaves is growing as GHG-induced warming continues to progress."

And Jerry Meehl, a climate scientist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told the Associated Press, “Everybody has this uneasy feeling. This is weird. This is not good.”

A report issued last month from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) linked the increase in extreme weather with human-caused global warming. “The information is all on the table,” Thomas Stocker, one of the report’s lead authors, told EurActiv. “If you have high emissions of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, then you will increase the incidence of ‘hottest days’ by a factor of 10.”

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NOAA: This animation shows the locations of each of the 7,793 daytime and 7,493 nighttime records (or tied records) in sequence over the 31 days in March.

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From the NOAA report:

  • The first three months of 2012 were also record warm for the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 42.0°F, 6.0°F above the long-term average.
  • Numerous cities had a record warm January-March, including Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. No state in the contiguous U.S. had below-average January-March temperatures.
  • "The previous 12-month period (April-March), which includes the second hottest summer (June-August) and fourth warmest winter (December-February), was the warmest such period for the contiguous United States. The 12-month running average temperature was 55.4°F, which is 2.6°F above the 20th century average."

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MSNBC: US shatters record for warmest March -- and first three months of a year

Stu Ostro, a senior Weather Channel meteorologist, told that the bigger picture isn't promising.

"It's not only what happened in March in North America," he said, "it's the context: the extremity of this extraordinary early-season heat in the U.S. and southern Canada, plus Norway and Scotland breaking their March high temperature records; Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 having their hottest summer on record, even hotter than during the Dust Bowl; the off-the-charts 2010 Russia heat wave along with approximately 20 countries setting high temperature records that summer; and Canada having its warmest winter and year on record in 2010."

"All of this happening with such frequency," he added, "provides overwhelmingly convincing evidence that the overall increased warmth is making the atmosphere more conducive to these sorts of heat extremes."

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