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Monday, April 9, 2012

NOAA: U.S. records warmest March; more than 15,000 warm temperature records broken. First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year's first "billion dollar disaster"

NOAA: U.S. records warmest March; more than 15,000 warm temperature records broken
First quarter of 2012 also warmest on record; early March tornado outbreak is year's first "billion dollar disaster" 
According to NOAA scientists, record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the eastern two-thirds of the nation and contributed to the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895.
Over 15,000 Records Broken in March 2012
Over 15,000 Records Broken as March 2012 Becomes Warmest on Record
(Credit: NOAA)
The average temperature of 51.1 F was 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months (or more than 116 years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.
This monthly analysis from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides government, business and community leaders so they can make informed decisions.
U.S. climate highlights - March
  • Every state in the nation experienced a record warm daily temperature during March. According to preliminary data, there were 15,292 warm temperature records broken (7,775 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records). Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.
  • A persistent weather pattern during the month led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • Temperatures in Alaska during March, which are not included in the contiguous U.S. average value, ranked as the tenth coolest on record.
  • The nationally-averaged precipitation total was 2.73 inches, which is 0.33 inches above average. The Pacific Northwest and the Southern Plains were much wetter than average during March while drier-than-average conditions were observed in the interior West, Northeast, and Florida. Colorado had its driest March on record.
  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of April 3rd, 36.8% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, a decrease from 38.7% at the end of February and an increase from 28.8% a year ago on April 5, 2011. Above-average precipitation across the Southern Plains improved long-term drought conditions Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
  • Warmer-than-average conditions across the eastern U.S. also created an environment favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. According to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, there were 223 preliminary tornado reports during March, a month that averages 80 tornadoes annually. The majority of the tornadoes occurred during the March 2-3 outbreak across the Ohio Valley and Southeast, which caused 40 fatalities. Total losses from this event are estimated to exceed $1.5 billion dollars, making this the first event of 2012 to exceed one billion dollars in damages and losses.
  • On March 9, a large weather system impacted the Hawaiian Islands, bringing extreme rainfall and severe thunderstorms. A rare EF-0 tornado hit the towns of Lanikai and Kailua on Oahu, causing minor damage. A hailstone with the largest diameter on record for the state, measuring 4 ¼ inches, fell on Oahu during this event.
Year-to-date (January-March)
  • The first three months of 2012 were also record warm for the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 42.0 F, 6.0 F above the long-term average.
  • The 25 states east of the Rockies had three-month average temperatures that were the warmest on record, and an additional 16 states had temperatures for the first-quarter ranking among their ten warmest. Numerous cities had a record warm January-March, including Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.  No state in the contiguous had three-month temperatures that were below average.
  • Alaska had its ninth coolest January-March period; temperatures were 5.2 F below average.
  • The nationally averaged precipitation total for January-March was 0.29 inches below the long-term average. States across the Pacific Northwest and Southern Plains were wetter than average, while the Intermountain West, parts of the Ohio Valley, and the entire Eastern Seaboard were drier than average.
  • For the year-to-date period, NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10% and lowest 10% of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones, was 39%, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the period. The predominant factor was the large area of the United States experiencing extremes in warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures.
Cold season (October-March) and 12-month period (April 2011 - May 2012)
  • The cold season, which is defined as October 2011 through March 2012 and an important period for national heating needs, was second warmest on record for the contiguous U.S. with a nationally averaged temperature 3.8 F above average. Only the cold season of 1999-2000 was warmer. Twenty-one states across the Midwest and Northeast, areas of the country with high annual heating demands, were record warm for the six-month period.
  • The previous 12-month period (April - March), which includes the second hottest summer (June-August) and fourth warmest winter (December-February), was the warmest such period for the contiguous United States. The 12-month running average temperature was 55.4 F, which is 2.6 F above the 20th century average.
On the Web:
NOAA U.S. Climate Report for March 2012:
NOAA Climate Portal:
NOAA-NESDIS Visualization:

Additional Information can be found on the following web sites:   

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