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Winter Was Fifth Warmest on Record

It will probably come as a surprise to most Americans, but the winter just finished was the fifth warmest on record, worldwide.

Oh, sure, nearly two-thirds of the country can dispute that from personal experience of a colder-than-normal season.

But while much of the United States was colder than usual, December-February - climatological winter - continued the long string of unusual warmth on a global basis.

And parts of the United States did join in, with warmer-than-normal readings for the season in New England and the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, Maine had its third warmest winter on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reports that worldwide the average temperature for winter was 54.9 degrees Fahrenheit (12.7 Celsius).

That's 1.08 degrees F (0.60 C) above average for the three-month period.

Contributing to the warmth was an El Nino (el NEEN-yo), a periodic warming of water in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which can influence weather over large areas.

However, worldwide temperatures have also been climbing in recent years, a warming attributed by most atmospheric scientists to chemicals added to the air by human activities since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

In February NOAA reported that the 2000-2009 decade was the warmest on record, easily surpassing the previous hottest decade, the 1990s.

The report for December-February also said:

Warmer-than-average temperatures engulfed much of the planet's surface, with the exception of unusually cool conditions across Europe, parts of Russia and most of the contiguous United States.

The Southern Hemisphere combined land and ocean temperature during the three-month season was the second warmest December-February on record, behind 1998.

Most of Canada had warmer-than-average conditions during winter, resulting in the warmest December-February period since national records began in 1948.

Much of Australia experienced warmer-than-average conditions during the Northern Hemisphere winter (Southern Hemisphere summer), with the exception of cooler-than-average conditions across the northern parts of the country.

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