The Earth experienced the 13th warmest March since record keeping began in 1880, as the climate phenomenon La Niña continued to be a significant factor. The annual maximum Arctic sea ice extent was reached on March 7 and tied with 2006 as the smallest annual maximum extent since record keeping began in 1979.

The monthly analysis from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.

Global temperature highlights – March

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2011 was the 13th warmest on record at 55.78 F (13.19 C), which is 0.88 F (0.49 C) above the 20th century average of 54.9 F (12.7 C). The margin of error associated with this temperature is +/- 0.13 F (0.07 C).
  • Separately, the global land surface temperature was 1.49 F (0.83 C) above the 20th century average of 40.8 F (5.0 C), and tied for the 12th warmest March on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.15 F (0.27 C).Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across most of Siberia, southwestern Greenland, southern North America, and most of Africa. Cooler-than-average regions included: most of Australia, the western half of Canada, most of Mongolia, China, and southeastern Asia.
  • The March global ocean surface temperature was 0.65 F (0.36 C) above the 20th century average of 60.7 F (15.9 C), making it the 12th warmest March on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.07 F (0.04 C). The warmth was most pronounced in the equatorial Atlantic, the western Pacific Ocean, and across the Southern Hemisphere mid-latitudes.

Global temperature highlights

  • The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the year to date (January 2011 – March 2011) was 0.77 F (0.43 C) above the 20th century average of 54.1 F (12.3 C), making it the 14th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.16 F (0.09 C).
  • The year-to-date worldwide land surface temperature was 1.08 F (0.60 C) above the 20th century average — the 21st warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/- 0.41 F (0.23 C). Warmer-than-average conditions occurred across northern Alaska, far northwestern Canada, southern Greenland and northern Siberia. Cooler-than-average regions included most of Europe, western Russia, Mongolia, much of China, Australia, and part of central North America.
  • The global ocean surface temperature for the year to date was 0.65 F (0.36 C) above the 20th century average and was the 12th warmest such period on record. The margin of error is +/-0.07 F (0.04 C). The warmth was most pronounced across parts of the central western Pacific Ocean, the tropical Atlantic Ocean, the North Atlantic near Greenland and Canada, and the southern mid-latitude oceans.
  • La Niña conditions continued to weaken in March for the third consecutive month, although sea-surface temperatures remained below normal across the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean. According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, La Niña will continue to have global impacts through the Northern Hemisphere spring, but neither La Nina nor El Nino conditions are expected by June.
  • The average high temperatures were the coolest on record for March across Australia. The Northern Territory and the state of South Australia experienced their coldest average maximum temperature in the 62-year period of record while Queensland was the lowest on record since 1971. Within the state of Western Australia, the eastern portion had its coolest March on record while its southwest had its warmest.

Scientists, researchers and leaders in government and industry use NOAA’s monthly analyses to help track trends and other changes in the world's climate. This climate service has a wide range of practical uses, from helping farmers know what and when to plant, to guiding resource managers with critical decisions about water, energy and other vital assets.

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