Stunningly Warm USA in March Breaks 15,000 Records!

April 9, 2012

The National Climate Data Center just released all the official USA stats for March and it’s just plain amazing.

  • Warmest March on record when you take the USA as a whole (back to 1895)
  • January-March (1st quarter of 2012) was the warmest on record too
  • 25 states east of the Rockies had their all time warmest March
  • 15,000 station daily warm temperature records were broken (day & night)

Here are the state rankings…118 means the warmest on record:

What was most amazing was the magnitude of the record warm month.   There is only one other month in the USA’s history that had such a huge departure from normal, January, 2006.  So it’s the 2nd greatest departure from normal in a total of 1400 months…truly historic.

One more sign of the magnitude of the warm month…there were 21 instances when a station’s LOW TEMPERATURE was warmer than the RECORD HIGH for the date!  For example, if on March 15th, Portland’s average high is 56, the record is 68.  To do this we would have  a high in the 80s (most likely) and a low of 70!

How did this happen? 

The same reason we had cooler than average temperatures here…a deep upper level trough was near or over the West Coast most of the month, and a very warm upper level ridge was centered over the eastern half of the country.  This pattern persisted the entire month after starting in late February.  The unusually mild winter leading up to March was a culprit as well; thinner than normal or non-existent snowpack allowed more heating than would be likely under typical ridge in March in the northern USA.

Of course the West Coast sticks out on the temperature departure maps…we were below average due to the persistent trough with record rainfall.  Not too exciting here except for the heavy coastal snowstorm and heavy central/south valley snowstorm in the middle of the month.  Western Oregon, the Cascades, and parts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho saw their wettest ever March. 

Here is a link to more info on the NCDC site:

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen