Climate of 2009

March in Historical Perspective

National Climatic Data Center, 10 April 2009



Contents Of This Report:
Selected Global Significant Events for March 2009

2008 Annual Report is available here.

Major Highlights

NOAA: March Temperature Near Average for the U.S.
March 2009 Tenth Warmest on Record for Global Temperatures

The March 2009 temperature for the contiguous United States was near the long-term average, based on records going back to 1895, according to an analysis by NOAA's National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Heavy precipitation last month also pushed the Red River, along the Minnesota-North Dakota border, to record levels, triggering major floods.

The average March temperature of 43.2 degrees F was 0.6 degrees F above the 20th century average. Precipitation across the contiguous United States in March averaged 2.51 inches, which is 0.11 inch above the 1901-2000 average.

The combined global land and ocean surface average temperature for March 2009 was the 10th warmest since records began in 1880.

The analyses in NCDC's global reports are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC's processing algorithms.

U.S. Temperature Highlights

Across the Northwest, March temperatures were below average, while the Southwest and Central regions were above normal. Temperatures in the South were slightly above average.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 3.7 percent below average in March.

U.S. Precipitation Highlights

Minnesota experienced its second wettest March, and areas of the South were also wetter than normal. By contrast, New Jersey had its 10th driest March on record, while Arizona, Maryland, and Pennsylvania each ranked in the 12th driest category.

For the January - March period, most of the contiguous United States had below-average precipitation, including Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, which had their driest January - March periods on record. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and West Virginia had their second, fourth, and fifth driest such periods, respectively. In the Southwest, New Mexico and Utah had their eighth and 10th driest January-March periods, respectively.

It was unusually wet in the upper Midwest, where North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota had their fourth, sixth, and ninth wettest January-through-March period, respectively.

At the end of March, 25 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is one percent more than at the end of February. Severe, or extreme, drought conditions continued in parts of California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the southern Plains, with exceptional drought in southern Texas.

Other U.S. Highlights

Record amounts of snow fell in North Dakota during March. Fargo received 28.1 inches, which was nearly 2 more inches than the previous March record set in 1997. Fargo also recorded 4.62 inches of precipitation which set a new monthly record. Bismarck nearly broke a March monthly snowfall total with 29.7 inches.

Major flooding affected areas along the Minnesota-North Dakota border as the Red River swelled to record and near-record levels. Well-above normal precipitation compounded the flooding potential brought on by extreme precipitation surpluses accumulated during autumn and winter. The six-month precipitation for the October-through-March period was the wettest on record for much of the Red River's drainage basin in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

Based on preliminary estimates, there were 115 tornadoes reported in the U.S. in March. This was below the three-year average (2006-2008) for March of 149 tornadoes, according to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center.

Approximately 14,078 wild land fires burned 401,741 acres across the nation in March, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The total number of wildfires and acres burned since the start of 2009 are both well above their respective 10-year averages.

Global Temperature Highlights

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for March was 55.87 °F, which at 0.97 °F above the 20th century average of 54.9 °F ranks as the 10th warmest March on record.

Separately, the March global land surface temperature was 42.47 °F, which was 1.67 °F above the 20th century average of 40.8 °F, ranking it as 10th warmest March on record.

The March global ocean surface temperature of 61.42 °F was eighth warmest on record, reaching 0.72 °F above the 20th century average of 60.7 °F.

The combined global land and ocean surface temperature for the year to date (January-March) was 55.04 °F, 0.94 °F above the 20th century average of 54.1 °F and ranking eighth warmest.

The Northern Hemisphere experienced its 12th warmest March on record, while the March 2009 Northern Hemisphere average ocean surface temperature tied with 2001 and 2006 for seventh warmest.

For the Southern Hemisphere, March 2009 land surface temperature was the fourth warmest March on record, while the March 2009 ocean surface temperature was sixth warmest.

March Snow and Ice Cover

Based on NOAA satellite observations, March snow cover extent was near the 1967-2009 average for North America, and below average over Europe and Asia. Northern Hemisphere snow cover extent also was below average for March.

March 2009 snow cover extent over Europe and Asia was 9.26 million square miles (23.98 million sq. km), which is 0.43 million square miles (1.11 million sq. km) below the 1967-2009 average of 9.69 million square miles (25.09 million sq. km). This represents the ninth smallest snow cover extent for Eurasia in the 43-year data set.

Satellite-based snow cover extent for the Northern Hemisphere was 15.38 million square miles (39.83 million sq. km) in March, which is 0.40 million square miles (1.05 million sq. km) below the 1967-2009 average of 15.78 million square miles (40.88 million sq. km).

Arctic sea ice coverage was at its sixth lowest March extent since satellite records began in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Average ice extent during March was 5.85 million square miles (15.16 million sq. km), 3.7 percent below the 1979-2000 average. Arctic sea ice usually reaches its maximum extent in March, and retreats to its annual minimum extent during September. March Arctic sea ice extent has decreased at an average rate of 2.7 percent per decade since 1979.

Antarctic sea ice extent in March was at its fourth-greatest level of the 31-year observational record. Antarctic sea ice extent reached 15.8 percent above its 1979-2000 average. Since 1979, Antarctic sea ice extent for March has increased at an average rate of 4.7 percent per decade.

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