March 2012 was the warmest on record since 1895, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA created a stunning time-lapse video of 15,000 local temperature records broken during the month.
“The average temperature of 51.1°F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5°F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910,” explains NOAA in its monthly State of the Climate report. Overall, October 2011 to March 2012 was the second warmest winter ever.
U.S. weather displayed the extremes scientists are predicting will intensify with global warming:
At 6.0 degrees above average, the first three months of 2012 marked the warmest first quarter on record for the contiguous United States. At the same time, Alaska experienced its coolest January-March ever and was 5.2 degrees cooler than average for the period.
While March was slightly rainier than average overall, 0.33 inches more rain than usual, it was much wetter than average in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains. At the same time, Colorado had its driest March on record and the interior West, Northeast, and Florida experienced continued drought conditions.
Warmer-than-average temperatures created an environment favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornados. March typically averages 80 tornadoes a year, but saw 223 preliminary tornado reports in 2012. The March 2-3 outbreak in the Ohio Valley and Southeast killed 40 people and wrought $1.5 billion in damages.
Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog. less