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U.S. sees warmest March in recorded history, NOAA reports

By Sean Morris, CNN Meteorologist
April 9, 2012 -- Updated 1830 GMT (0230 HKT)
New Yorkers take in the warm sunshine on the first day of spring. March will go down as the warmest one on record.
New Yorkers take in the warm sunshine on the first day of spring. March will go down as the warmest one on record.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • January-February-March also was warmest first quarter on record, NOAA reports
  • NOAA: More than 7,700 record highs were recorded during the month
  • March also saw more than 7,500 all-time high overnight lows, weather agency reports
  • Preliminary tornado reports for the month were almost four times the average

(CNN) -- March 2012 will go down as the warmest March in the United States since record-keeping began in 1895, NOAA said Monday.

In addition, the three-month period of January, February and March was the warmest first quarter ever recorded in the Lower 48 states. The average was 42 degrees Fahrenheit, a whopping 6 degrees above the long-term average.

A staggering 15,292 warm temperature records were broken, (7,755 record highs and 7,517 record high overnight lows), according to Chris Vaccaro, spokesperson for NOAA. "That's tremendously excessive. The scope and the scale of warmth was really unprecedented, Vaccaro said.

A persistent weather pattern during the month of March led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record, NOAA said. That same pattern was responsible for cooler-than-average conditions in the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon and California, they said.

The warm temperatures also contributed to conditions that were favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. There were 223 preliminary tornado reports during March, a month that averages 80 tornadoes, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center. The majority of these tornadoes occurred during a severe weather outbreak across the Ohio River Valley and Southeast in early March. The outbreak caused 40 deaths and total losses of $1.5 billion, making it the first billion-dollar disaster of 2012.

Short-term weather patterns such as the one that affected the United States are poor indicators of global climate trends, however. Parts of the world, most notably Eastern Europe, experienced below-average to extreme cold temperatures this winter.

CNN's Jake Carpenter contributed to this report.

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