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What's Up in Climate Change? 'March madness' trifecta

Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Friday, April 17, 2015, 6:14 PM - In a trifecta of terrible news, March 2015 is now part of three extreme climate records. Here's what's up in climate change!

Warmest March On Record

The Japan Meteorological Agency called it earlier this week, and now NOAA's numbers agree. March 2015 took the top spot on the list of warmest months of March on record.

According to NOAA's National Climate Data Center:

During March, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 0.85°C above the 20th century average. This was the highest for March in the 1880–2015 record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.05°C.

RELATED: Historic cold and global warming can co-exist: Here's how

Warmest First-Quarter On Record

In addition to a record warmth January, a second-to-warmest February and the warmest December-February period on record, the globe experienced the warmest January-March period on record as well.

According to the NCSC State of the Climate Global Analysis:

The first quarter of 2015 was the warmest such period on record across the world's land and ocean surfaces, at 0.82°C (1.48°F) above the 20th century average, surpassing the previous record of 2002 by 0.05°C (0.09°F). The average global land surface temperature was also record high for the January–March period, at 1.59°C (2.86°F). Most of Europe, Asia, South America, eastern Africa, and western North America were much warmer than average, as shown by the Temperature Percentiles map above, with record warmth particularly notable in the western United States and eastern Siberia along the Verkhoyansk Range.

RELATED: Earth just racked up its warmest winter on record

Lowest March Sea-Ice Extent on Record

The climate woes in March weren't just about temperatures, although this third record very likely has its roots in the heat the globe has been experiencing.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center:

Arctic sea ice extent for March 2015 averaged 14.39 million square kilometers. This is the lowest March ice extent in the satellite record. It is 1.13 million square kilometers below the 1981 to 2010 long-term average of 15.52 million square kilometers. It is also 60,000 square kilometers below the previous record low for the month observed in 2006.

What happens to sea ice at this time of year isn't as important as what the minimum extent is in September, since what happens in late winter and early spring is simply the accumulation and loss of the transient ice that grows and shrinks every year. The September minimum is more important because it gives a better indication of the 'health' of Arctic sea ice. Exactly how much multi-year or permanent ice provides a better 'diagnosis'.

However, while starting off with less ice doesn't necessarily mean that we'll see a new record low extent in September, it means there's less of a buffer against seeing that happen. With record heat so far this year, an El Nino in the central Pacific (and possibly strengthening to a more classic pattern), and the persistent warm 'Blob' off the west coast of North America, we may have to hope on luck with the weather to avoid a new record.

RELATED: Here's why Canada's new official map has more Arctic sea ice


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