March temperatures broke 118-year record in W. Va.

March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion in West Virginia.

The state is one of three in the mid-Atlantic region to see among the warmest March temperatures on record since 1895. By the end of the month, though, nighttime temperatures dipped below freezing, nearly wiping out the Eastern Panhandle’s orchard crops.

The National Climatic Data Center map shows record warm temperatures in March.

Record or near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, according to the National Climatic Data Center report published Tuesday.

More than 15,000 warm temperature records were broken.

The NCDC reports the average temperature of 51.1 was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910.

Of the more than 1,400 months or 117-plus years that have passed since climate record began, only one month — January 2006 — has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.

Every state in the nation experienced at least one record warm daily temperature during March.

Jefferson County’s warm temperatures in February and March caused the peach blossoms to open two weeks ahead of schedule.

However, at the end of the month temperatures dropped below freezing and by the first of April the freeze wiped out about 90 percent of the peach crop and nearly as much of the apple crop.

According to the NCDC, there were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm or warmer than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.

The previous 12-month period from April to March, which includes the second hottest summer and fourth warmest winter, was the warmest such period for the contiguous United States. The 12-month running average temperature was 55.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 2.6 degrees above the 20th century average.

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