If U.S. temperatures during the first quarter of this year are any indicator, many regions of the country could be in for a long and hot summer. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the average temperature for the contiguous United States for March (based on preliminary data) was warmer than average.

The government forecasting agency said March averaged 44 degrees F, which was 1.5 degrees F above the 1895-2005 statistical mean, making it warmer than two-thirds of the March temperatures on record.

“This is the fifth warmest January-March period on record in the U.S., largely due to a record warm January,” NOAA reported. “Only one state — California — was significantly colder than average with several towns, such as Redding, Sacramento and San Francisco, having their coldest March on record.”

Warmer than average conditions were present for 22 states across the Plains, especially the southern Plains, lower Mississippi and parts of the Northeast, NOAA reported. From January through March 2006, temperatures were much above average for the nation, with 29 states having much warmer-than-average conditions.

Looking globally, the average temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces during March 2006 (based on preliminary data) was 1.01 degrees F above the 20th century mean. This was the seventh warmest March since 1880 as the cold phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (La Niña) persisted in the equatorial Pacific.

“Anomalously warm land surface temperatures covered much of central Asia and northern Africa, while cooler than average temperatures were widespread across much of Europe.”

On the precipitation front, NOAA reported that it was the driest March on record for five East Coast states (New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida) and the wettest month in parts of the Hawaiian Islands, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, NC. Overall, March precipitation was near average for the U.S. but was marked by extremely dry conditions along the East Coast. Much of the West and Central U.S. was wetter than average for the month.

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