Taken separately, average ocean temperatures were the warmest for any March and the global land surface was the fourth warmest for any March on record.
Additionally, the planet has seen the fourth warmest January through March period on record, NOAA analysts conclude.
The monthly National Climatic Data Center analysis, based on records going back to 1880, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.
The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature in March was 1.39 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
Antarctic sunset, March 4, 2010 (Photo by Sam Weller)
NOAA's finding for March was confirmed by NASA's Goddard Institute, which found the combined average global land-surface air temperature in March was a record-breaking 1.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average.
The National Climatic Data Center observed that El Nino warming trend in the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean weakened to moderate strength in March, but it "contributed significantly to the warmth in the tropical belt and the overall ocean temperature."
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says El Nino is expected to continue its influence in the Northern Hemisphere at least through the spring.
Elsewhere around the world, record-high temperatures were recorded in March. According to the Beijing Climate Center, Tibet experienced its second warmest March since historical records began in 1951.
In China, the Xinjiang province had its wettest March since records began in 1951, while Jilin and Shanghai had their second wettest March on record. Meanwhile, Guangxi and Hainan provinces in southern China experienced their driest March on record, according to the Beijing Climate Center.
Delhi, India also had its second warmest March since records began in 1901, according to the India Meteorological Department.
Arctic sea ice covered an average of 5.8 million square miles (15.1 million square kilometers) during March. This is 4.1 percent below the 1979-2000 average expanse, and the fifth-smallest March coverage since records began in 1979.
Canada geese in Fredricton, New Brunswick. March 25, 2010. (Photo by Andrew Feicht)
Ice coverage traditionally reaches its maximum in March, and NOAA scientists observed that this was the 17th consecutive March with below-average Arctic sea ice coverage.
This year the Arctic sea ice reached its maximum size on March 31, the latest date for the maximum Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979.
The Antarctic sea ice expanse in March was 6.9 percent below the 1979-2000 average, resulting in the eighth smallest March ice coverage on record.
Many locations across Ontario, Canada received no snow, or traces of snow, in March, which set new low snowfall records, according to Environment Canada.
Melanie Fitzpatrick, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says the recent data are part of an overarching trend.
"The continuing warming trend of temperatures worldwide explodes the global cooling myth contrarians have been peddling for the past several years," Fitzpatrick said.
"While we can't draw strong conclusions from a single month, we know that global warming will bring more record-breaking temperatures in the future. Hot months are just a harbinger of a future that could include more heat waves, more droughts, and species extinctions as animals attempt to migrate to colder areas and run out of habitat," she said.
"The good news is that the degree to which global warming affects our economy and environment is ultimately up to us," Fitzpatrick said. "If we significantly reduce emissions, we can avoid the worst effects of climate change."
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