March cranked up the heat and the records

Posted at 4:51 PM, Apr 09, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-09 18:46:19-04

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – If you thought spring may have been a little too fast, you are probably right. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the United States recorded the warmest winter on record dating back to 1895.

Overall, the NCDC said more than 15,000 high temperature records were broken in March. The average temperature was 51.1 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average and 0.5 degrees warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910.

The NCDC reported that out of the more than 1,400 months that have been tracked dating back 117 years, only one month (January 2006) has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

And it’s not just March that has been warm this year. Overall, the first quarter of 2012 was the warmest on record. States east of the Rockies were the warmest in March with states on the West Coast being near or just slightly above normal.

Not surprisingly, the U.S. Drought Monitor found that 36.8 percent of the contiguous 48 states were in a drought. That’s slightly lower than February, but an increase of 28.8 percent compared to April 5, 2011.

The warmer than average temperatures in March also created a severe weather setup that helped spawn 223 tornadoes in a month that averages just 80. The majority of the twisters happened during a March 2nd-3rd outbreak which killed 40 people. The total losses from the severe weather is expected to exceed $1.5 billion dollars.