Planet Earth continues to run a fever. Last month was the warmest March on record over land surfaces of the world and the second warmest overall worldwide. For the United States, however, it was just an average March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday.
NOAA's National Climatic Data Center said high temperatures over much of Asia pulled the worldwide land temperature up to an average of 40.8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.9 degrees Celsius), 3.2 degrees (1.8 C) warmer than the average in the 20th century.
While Asia had its greatest January snow cover this year, warm March readings caused a rapid melt and March snow cover on the continent was a record low.
Global ocean temperatures were the 13th warmest on record, with a weakening of the La Nina conditions that cool the tropical Pacific Ocean.
Overall land and sea surface temperatures for the world were second highest in 129 years of record keeping, trailing only 2002, the agency said.
Warming conditions in recent decades have continued to raise concern about global climate change, which many weather and climate experts believe is related to gases released into the atmosphere by industrial and transportation processes.
The climate center said that for the 48 contiguous United States it was about average, ranking as the 63rd warmest March in 113 years of record keeping.
The average temperature for the U.S. in March was 42 degrees, 0.4 degrees below the 20th century mean.
The agency said only Rhode Island, New Mexico and Arizona were warmer than average, while near-average temperatures occurred in 39 other states. The monthly temperature for Alaska was the 17th warmest on record.
The snow pack declined in many parts of the West in March, but the Western snow pack remains the best in more than a decade thanks to heavy snowfall December through February.
For the month, nine states from Oklahoma to Vermont were much wetter than average, with Missouri experiencing its second wettest March on record.
Moderate to extreme drought remains in much of the Southeast despite rainfall in the middle of the month.
On the Net:
Complete analysis: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2008/mar/mar08.html