By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
Record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the USA, a record that dates back to 1895, federal scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced this morning.
More than 15,000 warm temperature records were broken in all.
The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March, scientists reported.
Every state in the nation experienced a record warm daily temperature during March, and 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record.
Several large cities - including Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Nashville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington - had their warmest March since records started being kept, according to the National Weather Service.
Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records.
Also, the first quarter of the year was the warmest on record, NOAA announced.
A brief analysis earlier this month by one NOAA scientist, Martin Hoerling, primarily blamed natural causes for the freak warm spell, with global warming only playing a minor role.
While March was warm east of the Rockies, the West Coast and Alaska shivered through a cold, raw month: March was cooler-than-average in Washington, Oregon and California, while Alaska had its 10th-coolest March on record.
Additionally, with a cost exceeding $1.5 billion, the deadly March tornado outbreak in the Midwest was the year's first "billion-dollar disaster," of which there were a record 14 in 2011, NOAA reported.
Contributing: Associated Press