March shattered records nationwide for warm temps, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Overview report, and set the stage for a potentially harmful hurricane season by warming the Gulf of Mexico to August-like temps in the spring.
"Water temps are very warm at almost more than two standard deviations above normal," said senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. "Water temps are already warm enough that, if we had a tropical storm in the Gulf, it would feed it. We're already in the upper 70s to 80 degrees, which is something you usually see in July and August."
No long-lasting cold weather this winter created the balmy spring and warm waters, he said. NOAA reports the average U.S. temperature in March was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports the average U.S. temperature in March was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average.
"At least two-thirds of the nation could wind up with above-normal temperatures during spring 2012," predicted AccuWeather.com Paul Pastelok, meteorologist and leader of the AccuWeather.com forecasting team, in a late February report.?? Pastelok said spring 2012 would feature the most widespread warmth since 2004.?
He turned out to be pessimistic.
Every state in the nation experienced at least one record warm daily temperature in March breaking 15,272 temperature records, according to the NOAA report.
Many Southeast metro areas set multiple all-time March records for number of days with at least 80-degree temperatures. Birmingham, Ala., Tampa, Atlanta, Columbia, S.C., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Roanoke, Va., all experienced a record-warm March. So, too, did Boca Grande, which is included in the Tampa region.
Kottlowski said the warm winter and spring does not necessarily bode ill for the upcoming hurricane season. A dominant high pressure area covering much of the South and Southwest is keeping the jet stream at more northern latitudes and creating a hurricane short-circuit wind sheer.
"There's no correlation between abnormally warm weather during late winter and the hurricane season," he said. "The Azores-Bermuda high front has been dominant over the western part of the Atlantic."
Kottlowksi said the warm weather is to be enjoyed until severe weather materializes.
"Gulf of Mexico warmth might intensify tropical storms but you'd need a storm to develop first," he said. "Expected weather patterns suggest the warm weather will ease a bit and wind patterns will create too much sheer for many hurricanes to form."
The Northeast had its warmest March in 118 years, averaging 44.4 degrees and 9.8 degrees above the regional average.
The Midwest region also had its warmest March on record. More than 6,400 daily temperature records were recorded for the region, 650 topping the previous mark for any day in March.
The West was the coolest region of the United States throughout March, but it still experienced some record highs. Long Beach, Calif., hit a record high 91 March 4.??
Kottlowski said global warming believers will seize on this spring's weather aberrations as proof of their theories but they would be wrong to do so.
"Global warming is a long-term thing over 30 or 40 years so you can't relate that to this," he said. "You can't look at the short term and say it's global warming. The tell-tale sign will be within the next 10 years: If the warmings continue it will be a big indicator of global warming."