Last month was the warmest March the lower 48 states have seen since 1895, when records began, according to scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The average temperature of 51.1 degrees Fahrenheit (10.6 degrees Celsius) was 0.5 degrees F (0.9 degrees C) warmer than the previous record holder, March 1910, and 8.6 degrees F (4.8 degrees C) above the 20th-century average for March.
The warmth centered on the eastern two-thirds of the lower 48 states, with temperatures that tied or broke more than 15,000 historic records, about half of them daytime highs and the others nighttime highs. Hundreds of locations saw their all-time high records for March broken, according to NOAA. In fact, every U.S. state experienced at least one record-warm daily temperature during March.
The warmer-than-average temperatures also created perfect conditions for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes, according to NOAA; an outbreak of tornadoes early in the month across the Ohio Valley and the Southeast brought the country's first weather disaster with damages to top $1 billion in 2012.
The first three months of 2012, taken together, were also warmer than average, with numerous cities experiencing a record warm January-March, including Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. In addition to warmth, weather so far this year has also been drier than normal for the lower 48 states overall. [Was It Climate Change?]