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Assessing the Global Climate in March 2019

Second warmest March global temperature on record

Photo of snow-covered Mount St. Elias from Icy Bay, South Central Alaska
Courtesy of NOAA Office of Coast Survey

The global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average for March 2019 was the second highest for the month of March in the 140-year NOAA global temperature dataset record, which dates back to 1880. The year-to-date temperature was the third warmest January–March on record.

Map of global selected significant climate anomalies and events for March 2019

This monthly summary, developed by scientists at NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.

March 2019 Temperature

Map of global temperature percentiles for March 2019
  • The March temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.91°F above the 20th century average of 54.9°F and was the second highest for March in the 1880–2019 record. Only March 2016 was warmer at 2.23°F above average.

    • March 2019 marks the third time in 140 years on record that the March global land and ocean surface temperature departure from average surpassed 1.8°F. March 2016 and 2017 were the other two times.

    • The March 2019 global land and ocean temperature tied with January 2016 as the fifth highest monthly temperature departure from average among all months (1671 months) on record.

    • Record warm March temperatures were present across much of Alaska, northwestern Canada, and across parts of the Barents, East China and Tasman seas, western Europe, central Russia, southern Australia and the southern Atlantic and western Indian oceans. No land or ocean areas had record-cold March temperatures.

  • The March globally averaged land surface temperature was 3.46°F above the 20th century average of 40.8°F. This value was also the second highest March land temperature in the 140-year record, trailing behind the record warm March of 2016 (+4.30°F).

    • The most notable warm land surface temperature departures from average during March 2019 were present across Alaska, northwestern Canada and north-central Asia, where temperatures were at least 7.2°F higher than average. Across the Southern Hemisphere, Australia and southern Africa had temperatures that were at least 2.7°F higher than average. The most notable cool temperature departures from average were limited to the northern contiguous U.S., where temperature departures from average were 5.4°F below average or cooler.

    • Regionally, Oceania had its second highest March temperature since continental records began in 1910, at 3.17°F above average. This value falls behind the record year 2016 by 0.18°F. Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean region each had a temperature that ranked among the nine warmest for March on record.

    • Meanwhile, South America had its least warm March since 2014.

  • The March globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.31°F above the 20th century monthly average of 60.7°F — also the second highest global ocean temperature for March in the record, behind 2016 (+1.48°F).

Sea Ice and Snow Cover

Maps of Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent in March 2019
  • The March average Arctic sea ice extent tied with 2011 as the seventh smallest sea ice extent in the 41-year record at 340,000 square miles (5.7%) below the 1981–2010 average, according to an analysis by the National Snow and Ice Data Center using data from NOAA and NASA. The Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent on March 13 at 5.71 million square miles, tying with 2007 as the seventh smallest maximum extent on record.

  • Antarctic sea ice extent during March was 340,000 square miles (21.6%) below the 1981–2010 average. This was the second smallest March extent on record, behind the record low set in 2017 (33.0% below average).

  • According to data from NOAA and analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent during March was 250,000 square miles below the 1981–2010 average. This was the 17th smallest snow cover extent in the 53-year record. The North American snow cover extent was the ninth largest on record, while the Eurasian snow cover extent was the seventh smallest on record.

Year-to-date (January–March 2019)

Map of global temperature percentiles for January–March 2019
  • The year-to-date temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.62°F above the 20th century average of 54.1°F — the third highest for January–March in the 140-year record, behind the years 2016 (warmest) and 2017 (second warmest).

    • The most notable warm temperatures during the three-month period were present across much of Australia, southwestern and central Asia, as well as Alaska and northwestern Canada. The January–March 2019 temperatures across these regions were 4.5°F above average or higher. The most notable cooler-than-average temperatures were present across much of Canada and the contiguous U.S, where temperatures were 5.4°F below average or cooler.

    • Record warm January–March temperatures were observed across Australia, the Tasman and East China Seas, southern Brazil, northern Alaska, northwestern Canada, the Barents Sea, as well as scattered across all southern oceans, Africa and Asia. No land or ocean areas had record-cold temperatures during January–March 2019.

  • The year-to-date globally averaged land surface temperature was 2.65°F above the 20th century average of 38.5°F. This value was the fifth highest for January–March on record.

    • Oceania’s January–March 2019 temperature was 3.02°F above average and the highest such period since continental records began in 1910. The Caribbean region, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia had January–March temperatures that ranked among the 10 warmest such periods on record. Meanwhile, North America had its smallest (least warm) January–March temperature departure from average since 2014.

  • The year-to-date globally averaged sea surface temperature was 1.24°F above the 20th century average of 60.6°F. This tied with 2017 as the second highest for January–March in the 1880–2019 record, falling behind the record year set in 2016 (+1.49°F).

For a more complete summary of climate conditions and events, see our March 2019 Global Climate Report.

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