That’s how much higher the average U.S. temperature in March was above the 20th century norm for that month, according to new statistics from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That made last month the warmest march in U.S. history since record keeping began back in 1895, and the second-most extreme month—meaning the biggest deviation from the norm—ever, after January 2006. 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record, and just four states were colder than normal—with Alaska having the tenth-coldest March on record. Last month also had the most daily temperature records broken since July 1936—and amazingly, 21 times the low temperature for a day beat the previous high record. In climatological terms, March 2012 was a record-breaker the way Bob Beamon broke the long-jump record at the 1968 Olympics. Although an analysis by NOAA scientist Martin Hoerling found that the March heat wave was chiefly a natural phenomenon—one predicted by long-term NOAA forecasts—climate change does raise the chances of such extreme heat occurring. See Jeff Masters’s great WunderBlog for more.

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