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This year saw the fifth-warmest March on record

Federal climate researchers say cooler ocean conditions helped keep global temperatures from hitting record levels in March, but the month was still the fifth-warmest March on record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that a persistent La Niña condition in the center of the Pacific Ocean was responsible for moderating last month’s average temperature.

Even so, the temperature remains above average and officials predict that the average temperature for the year will still end up among the 10 warmest.

NOAA has been tracking global temperatures for 143 years, and the latest reading confirms again that the planet’s climate is warming.

Ocean temperatures in the Pacific played a role in moderating temperatures around the world.

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“In comparison with other years when there’s an El Niño, the temperatures during the La Niña years tend to be slightly cooler. So that’s what we’re seeing right now,” NOAA climatologist Ahira Sanchez-Lugo said.

Even with those cooler temperatures, there were still nine tropical storms in March, tying 2015 and 2018 for the second most cyclones during that month. The year 1994 had 10 major storm events in March.

The federal agency also recorded a lot less sea ice in northern Arctic regions.

NOAA measured 5.63 million square miles of sea ice, which is about 324,000 square miles below average.

Less sea ice, which reflects the sun’s rays, means that more of the ocean is exposed, and that absorbs the sunlight.

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“What it does, it absorbs most if not all of this low radiation,” Sanchez-Lugo said. “So now you have the ocean exposed. It's absorbing more solar radiation, and it’s warming up. And then it takes longer to cool down, so that’s why the sea ice is not recovering as fast as it used to.”

Antarctic sea ice measurements found only 1.09 million square miles of the frozen water, which is 470,000 square miles below average,

Federal officials say last month was the 46th consecutive March with a global temperature above last century’s average.

The seven warmest Marches have happened since 2015.