March 2016 was the warmest March in the satellite temperature record and the third warmest month overall, when compared to seasonal norms, reports a press release from the Earth System Science Center at The University of Alabama in Huntsville. Dr. John Christy, director of the Center notes that the El Niño event in Pacific Ocean continues to warm the tropical atmosphere. While the record high set in February 2016 was driven by exceptionally warm temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, temperatures in March were pumped by a broad band of warmer than normal air that girdled the tropics entirely around the globe.
According to satellite data, Feb. 2016 was 0.83C hotter than seasonal norms; Apr. 1998 was 0.74C above the norm; and Mar. 2016 was 0.73C warmer.
While temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere cooled 0.22 C (almost 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) between February and March (compared to seasonal norms), temperatures in the tropics were 0.1 C warmer during that same time.
Globally, the average temperature anomaly in March (+0.73 C) was 0.1 C cooler than February, and very slightly cooler (0.01 C) than the previous record high set in April 1998 (+0.74 C), during the so-called "El Niño of the century."
While the El Niño continues to pump heat into the atmosphere, notes Christy, this event hasn't been powerful enough by itself to push the atmosphere to new record highs. Without the kind of transient heat spikes aided by fluctuating weather patterns in the high latitudes, such as were seen in February, this El Niño may continue to fade. The February anomaly might stand out as an anomalous spike in the dataset rather than part of an ongoing trend.