The warmest March in history: By the numbers

The Week

While most Americans basked in curiously toasty temperatures last month, climate scientists sounded the alarm over global warming

Temperature records were scorched last month, which will go down as the warmest March in history. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 15,000 temperature records were broken or tied in the U.S., continuing a year-long streak of hotter-than-average temperatures that many scientists are linking to global warming. "Everybody has this uneasy feeling," says scientist Jerry Meehl. "It's a guilty pleasure. You're out enjoying this nice March weather, but you know it's not a good thing." Here's how it all breaks down:

15,292
Temperature records that were set or tied across the U.S. in March, according to NOAA

51.1
Average March temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, in the lower 48 states 

8.6
Degrees by which that average temperature was hotter than the average for March in the 20th century

0.5
Degrees by which this March's average temperature beat the all-time March high, set in 1910. "Usually records are broken by just one- or two- tenths of a degree," says Seth Borenstein at the Associated Press.

42
Average U.S. temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, for the first three months of 2012 

6
Degrees by which this year's first-quarter average exceeded the warmest January-to-March average on record

25
States that had their warmest average March temperatures on record. But every state broke at least one daily temperature record during March, says Doyle Rice at USA Today.

4
This winter's rank on the list of warmest winters ever. The last year (April to April) has "been the hottest 12-month stretch on record," says NOAA climate scientist Jake Crouch

223
Tornadoes that touched down in the U.S. in March

143
Typical March tornado count

$1.5 billion
Estimated damage caused by the March tornado outbreak across the Ohio Valley and southeastern U.S. — the first $1 billion weather-related disaster of the year 

14
Weather-related disasters that cost $1 billion or more last year

-33
Temperature, in degrees Fahrenheit, in Ukraine on the chilliest day of Europe's record-breaking cold snap this winter. Meteorologists credit La Nina with bringing record heat to North America while Europe suffered colder-than-average temperatures, says Tim Newcomb at TIME.

Sources: AP (2), Bloomberg, Hill, TIME, USA Today

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