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March was hot in a freaky way

As the mercury rose into the 80s last month, folks on the street knew what weather experts have determined about March:

It was really warm.

In fact, Accuweather says that dozens of cities in 26 states set records for the month, including places like Burlington, Vt., where the average temperature was more than 12 degrees above the normal average of 31 degrees. Indianapolis set a record-warm month for the first time in 66 years, and places like New York City and Chicago just missed setting new records for the month, settling instead for their second warmest Marches on record.

The first culprit that comes to mind for many is climate change caused the surge in heat. But it turns out that climate change is no more than a minor character in this play, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Meteorologist Martin Hoerling, in an interview with The Associated Press about the month nicknamed "meteorological March Madness," found the primary cause of the late spring/early summer temperatures was up in the air, so to speak -- a persistent south wind from the Gulf.

Hoerling said that climate change was a "minor factor" in the heat-up, which instead was primarily caused by unusual wind patterns. High pressure settled over New England and low pressure took up residence in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of weeks, setting up an unusually long-lasting channel for warm air to blow north from the Gulf. That warm breeze was 15-20 degrees warmer than what the air in the Midwest normally is this time of year.

"It is a freak event that appeared to have perhaps a freak ancestor, 1910 (which had a similar heat wave)," Hoerling told AP.

He said the event is what you would expect to happen once every hundred years and that it shouldn't lead anyone to worry that the summer will be particularly scalding. Weather in March, he said, has "little relation" to what follows it in the summertime.

Of course, those of us in Southwest Georgia know full well what to expect when the summer gets here, the sun baking the red clay like bricks. Regardless of whether March is 10 degrees warmer than normal or 10 degrees cooler than average, air conditioners in our region of the state will get another thorough workout.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board