“Warmer-than-normal conditions dominated the globe, especially in northern Africa, South Asia and Canada,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a statement on Thursday.
Combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for March 2010 was the warmest on record at 13.5 degrees Celsius (56.3 degrees Fahrenheit), which is 0.77 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average of 12.7 C, it said.
Average ocean temperatures were the hottest for any March since record-keeping began in 1880, while the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record, NOAA said, citing analysis from the National Climate Data Center.
It added that the January-March period was the planet’s fourth warmest on record.
The US agency cited two Asian examples of high March mercury: Tibet had its second warmest March since records began in 1951, it said citing the Beijing Climate Center, while Delhi, India had its own second warmest March since 1901 record-keeping, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Cooler-than-normal temperatures prevailed in some locations, however, including Mongolia, eastern Russia, northern and western Europe, northern Australia, western Alaska and the southeastern United States, NOAA said.
The agency also pointed to Arctic sea ice as a temperature indicator, and said this was the 17th consecutive March in which Arctic sea ice coverage was below average.
Last month’s average coverage of 15.1 million square kilometers (5.8 million square miles) was 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average, the agency said.
NOAA stressed that while El Nino, the weather anomaly which wreaks havoc on normal weather patterns from the western seaboard of Latin America to east Africa, weakened to a moderate strength in March, “it contributed significantly to the warmth in the tropical belt and the overall ocean temperature.”
El Nino was expected to maintain its influence in the northern hemisphere “at least through the spring,” NOAA said.
The record March temperatures are likely to be seen as evidence backing the case of those who believe climate change is an urgent crisis which must be addressed at the global level.
The United Nations and several countries have called for a legally-binding agreement on climate change, but at a summit in Copenhagen in December states failed to agree on a deadline to reduce carbon emissions that cause global warming.