The Midwest’s corn crop may be delayed because the ground is still too wet or too cold to plant, and much of the United States is still not quite sure if spring has arrived.
But looking at the entire globe — as scientists do when they track things like global warming — 2014’s month of March was the fourth-hottest one on record. Only 2002, 2010, and 1990 were warmer. Data from 135 years of records show that the average global temperature in March 2014 was 1.3°F warmer than the 20th century average of 54.9°F. This was the 38th March that was hotter than average.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) climate scientist Jessica Blunden said that “the change was primarily due to warmer-than-average temperatures over central Asia in March, compared with cooler-than-average temperatures in February.”
Yes, the U.S. experienced its 34th-coldest winter in 119 years of data. But the U.S. National Climatic Data Center reported last month that the winter of 2013-2014 ended up being the 8th-warmest, globally, on record.
NASA’s Earth Observatory noted in a blog post that “human memory is not a scientific measure, and long-term perspective tends to get lost in everyday conversation and news coverage”:
The winter of 2013-14 followed two winters that were significantly warmer than the norm, which likely made this season feel worse than it was. Researchers at the U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that the average temperature of the contiguous U.S. for the winter was just 0.4° Celsius (31.3° Fahrenheit), about 1°F below average.
Why was it only the 34th coldest winter in 119 years of records? Because most of the land west of the Rocky Mountains was warmer and drier than average, so those warmer temperatures offset the cold snaps to the east. California had its hottest winter on record, and several other states came close. Though it is not included in the contiguous U.S. measurements, Alaska also thawed in spring-like heat and rain that melted snow and ice.
This temperature schism in North America, caused by a kink in the jet stream, could also become the norm due to climate change, according to Climate Central.
The warm March manifested mostly in higher latitudes. For the first time since its records began, Slovakia’s average March temperature exceeded 50°F — which means it was the warmest March the country had experienced since records began in 1871. Austria saw its second-warmest March since 1767. Norway saw its third-warmest since records began — so did Germany. South Korea’s March was the second-warmest since its records began in 1971. Parts of northern Siberia saw temperatures averaging 9°F warmer than normal, and the mid-summer temperatures were matched by unexpected major wildfires.
Temperature is not the only way to see that March was actually warmer than normal. Last month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado announced that Arctic sea ice extent reached its maximum on March 21, which is good for the fifth-lowest winter ice cover extent since satellite records began in 1978.
Still, not much of the observable evidence reaches political circles. On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business advisor, Maurice Newman, pushed the regularly debunked trope that there has been a “pause” in warming for the last 17 years.