Earth Sees Second Warmest March on Record

The 10 warmest Marches in the 141 years of record-keeping by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all occurred since 1990.

(National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

(CN) — Amid the deeply unsettling times of living through a global pandemic, some have taken solace in intermittent silver linings, particularly air quality improvements materializing as a byproduct of national lockdowns. 

In New Delhi, the capital of India, residents marveled at the bright blueness of the sky they haven’t seen look so clear in decades. In Los Angeles, aerial photographs show a lush city surrounded by greenery without miles of snarled traffic emitting copious amounts of pollution on a per-minute basis. 

But while the weather may have temporarily improved as people work and drive significantly less in the days of lockdown, close inspection of the climate and its more overarching trends can only produce alarm. 

Last month was the second-hottest March on record, according to a Monday report released by the National Centers for Environmental Information. 

“The globally averaged temperature departure from average over land and ocean surfaces for March 2020 was the second highest for the month in the 141-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880,” the report by the agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states. 

Land surface temperatures were abnormally warm for the eastern part of the United States, much of Asia and nearly all South America. Those areas averaged temperatures approximately 3.7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than the 20th century average. 

South America witnessed its warmest March ever. For the Caribbean, it was the second-warmest. 

The oceans also recorded high temperatures, with parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the central area of the Indian Ocean and the northern and southwestern regions of the Pacific Ocean, where water surface temperatures hovered around 1 degree Fahrenheit above the 20th century average. 

“Record warm March surface temperatures were present across parts of the Atlantic, Indian and western Pacific oceans, as well as parts of southern North America, South America, Asia and Africa,” the report states. 

The only areas of the globe that saw a deviation from the 20th century average toward the cooler side of the spectrum were parts of Canada and Alaska, as well as northern India. 

Parts of the North Atlantic also came in cooler than normal. 

Ice in the Artic was also smaller than average as a result of the high temperatures, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. 

“The Arctic reached its maximum annual extent on March 5 at 5.81 million square miles and was also the 11th smallest annual extent on record,” the report states. 

Antarctic sea ice extent fared better during the last month, spanning approximately 1.54 million square miles, which is near the average established from 1980-2011. According to the snow and ice data center, March ended the 41-month streak of below-average numbers for the Antarctic sea ice extent. 

The warm March only furthered warming trends seen throughout the globe in the first quarter of 2020. Europe and Asia both saw records fall for the warmest January-March period in recorded history. 

“The first three months of the year had warmer-than-average conditions across much of the globe,” the report states. “The most notable warm January–March temperature departures were observed across much of eastern Europe and Asia, where temperatures were 5.4°F (3.0°C) above average or higher.”

It’s not likely this trend will soon abate, even in the face of a drastic cessation of the world economy across the globe. 

Statistical analysis conducted by the National Centers for Environmental Information shows that 2020 is likely to be one of the five warmest years for land and oceanic surface temperatures across the globe.  

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