Climate of 2008
March in Historical Perspective

National Climatic Data Center
16 April 2008

Contents of this Report:

Selected Global Significant Events for March 2008

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Major Highlights

NOAA: 2nd Warmest March on Record for Globe
Global Land Surface Temperature Warmest on Record

The average global temperature (land and ocean surface combined) for last month was the 2nd warmest on record for March, while the average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was near average (ranking the 63rd warmest), according to an analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

In the contiguous United States, the average temperature for March was 42°F, which was 0.4°F below the 20th century mean, ranking it as the 63rd warmest March on record, based on preliminary data.

Only Rhode Island, New Mexico and Arizona were warmer than average, while near-average temperatures occurred in 39 other states. The monthly temperature for Alaska was the 17th warmest in the 1918-2008 record, with an average temperature 3.8°F above the 1971-2000 mean.

The broad area of near-average temperatures kept the nation's overall temperature-related residential energy demand for March near average, based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

Nine states from Oklahoma to Vermont were much wetter than average, with Missouri experiencing its second wettest March on record. Much of the month's precipitation fell March 17-20, when an intense storm system moved slowly from the southern Plains through the southern Midwest.

Rainfall amounts in a 48-hour period totaled 13.84 inches in Cape Girardeau, Mo., and 12.32 inches in Jackson, Mo. The heavy rainfall combined with previously saturated ground resulted in widespread major flooding of rivers and streams from the Missouri Ozarks eastward into southern Indiana.

From March 7-9, eight to 12 inches of snow fell from Louisville, Ky., to central Ohio. In Columbus, an all-time greatest 24-hour snowfall of 15.5 inches broke the old record of 12.3 inches set on April 4, 1987.

In the Southeast, a powerful tornado moved through downtown Atlanta on March 14, causing significant damage to many buildings. This was one of 90 tornado reports from the Southeast in March, accounting for 61 percent of all of the reported March tornadoes in the nation.

Rainfall in the middle of March improved drought conditions in much of the Southeast, but moderate-to-extreme drought remained in more than 59 percent of the region.

In the western U.S., the weather pattern in March bore a greater resemblance to a typical La Niña, with especially dry conditions across Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. March was extremely dry in much of California, tying as the driest in 68 years at the Sacramento airport with 0.05 inches, a 2.75 inch departure from average.

Snowpack conditions dropped in many parts of the West in March, but in general, heavy snowfall during December-February has left the western snow pack among the healthiest in more than a decade, with most locations near to above average.

Global Highlights

The global surface (land and ocean surface) temperature was the 2nd warmest on record for March in the 129-year record, 1.28° F (0.71° C) above the 20th century mean of 54.9° F (12.7° C). The warmest March on record (+1.33° F/0.74° C) occurred in 2002.

The global land surface temperature was the warmest on record for March, 3.3° F (1.8° C) above the 20th century mean of 40.8° F (5.0° C). Temperatures more than 8° F above average covered much of the Asian continent. Two months after the greatest January snow cover extent on record on the Eurasian continent, the unusually warm temperatures led to rapid snow melt, and March snow cover extent on the Eurasian continent was the lowest on record.

Although the ocean surface average was only the 13th warmest on record, as the cooling influence of La Niña in the tropical Pacific continued, much warmer than average conditions across large parts of Eurasia helped push the global average to a near record high for March.

Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent was the fourth lowest on record for March, remaining consistent with boreal spring conditions of the past two decades, in which warming temperatures have contributed to anomalously low snow cover extent.

Some weakening of La Niña, the cold phase of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, occurred in March, but moderate La Niña conditions remained across the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Report Index

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