As the expression goes, March usually goes in like a lion, out like a lamb. But not this year. March temperatures for the lower 48 states were well above average (8.6 degrees higher, for those keeping score at home). Plus, the first three months of the year have recorded an average temperature six degrees warmer than normal, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The rest of the world has had plenty of average weather (and sometimes colder than average temperatures), leaving scientists to explain the sudden onslaught of heat in this continent. Meteorologists credit La Nina, which combined with a variety of weather patterns to warm this lone corner of the world for an extended time period.
The first three months of 2012 broke the first quarter temperature record by 1.4 degrees, a monumental mark that usually gets snapped by tenths of degrees. This extreme swing comes on the heels of the 2010-2011 winter that was colder than average and produced one of the snowiest in decades.
But the warm winter didn’t come out of nowhere. The summer of 2011 was the second warmest on record, and the past 12 months have been the warmest on record for most locations in the U.S.
While temperatures have been warming for months, it came to a boiling point in March, with an average of 51.1 degrees across the country (a typical average is 42.5 degrees) and records broken at 7,775 U.S. weather stations.
NASA scientist James Hansen credits the shattered records to global warming. Breaking extreme records has become 40 times more likely in recent years; the data dates to 1895. For the non-scientist, though, it simply meant March was spent outside, enjoying the record warmth.
PHOTOS: 2011: Rough Weather