National Climate Report - March 2012
- Climate Highlights — March
- Record and near-record breaking temperatures dominated the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States, a record that dates back to 1895. The average temperature of 51.1 degrees F was 8.6 degrees F above the 20th century average for March and 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous warmest March in 1910. Of the more than 1,400 months that have passed since the U.S. record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.
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- Every state in the nation experienced a record warm daily temperature during March. According to preliminary data, there were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 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.
- The nationally-averaged precipitation total was 2.73 inches, which is 0.33 inch above average. The Colorado had its driest March on record.
- According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of April 3rd, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, a decrease from 38.7 percent at the end of February. Above-average precipitation across the Southern Plains improved long-term drought conditions across Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
- The 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. The majority of the tornadoes occurred during the March 2-3 outbreak across the Ohio Valley and Southeast, which caused 40 fatalities and damages exceeding 1.5 billion U.S. dollars.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI), an index that tracks the highest and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones across the contiguous U.S., was a record 41 percent during March. The extent of extremes in warm maximum (71 percent) and warm minimum (70 percent) temperatures was at or near record levels across the nation. A record extent of extremes in both maximum and minimum temperatures covered all of the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and Southeast regions during the month.
- On March 9th, a cut-off low pressure system impacted the Hawaiian Islands, bringing heavy rainfall and severe thunderstorms. A rare EF-0 tornado hit the towns of Lanikai and Kailua on Oahu, causing minor damage. A separate storm dropped a hailstone measuring 4.25 inches long, 2.25 inches tall, and 2 inches wide, the largest hailstone on record for the state.
- A list of select March temperature and precipitation records can be found here.
- 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 degrees, which is 6.0 degrees above the long-term average.
- For the January-March period, Numerous cities had a record warm January-March, including Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C. No state in the Lower-48 had 3-month temperatures below average.
- Alaskan temperatures during March, which are not included in the contiguous U.S. average value, ranked as the tenth coolest on record, contributing to Alaska having its ninth coolest January-March period. The Alaskan year-to-date temperature was 5.2 degrees F below average.
- The nationally-averaged precipitation total for January-March was 0.29 inch below the long-term average. States across the Eastern Seaboard were drier than average.
- For the January to March (year-to-date) period, the USCEI was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the period. The predominant factor in this elevated value was the large area of the contiguous U.S. experiencing ongoing extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures. Warm temperature extremes during the first three months of 2012 had a large impact across the country, with 74 percent of the country experiencing extremes in warm maximum temperatures and 63 percent by extremes in warm minimum temperatures. Record extent of both warm maximum and minimum temperatures dominated across most of the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley, Northern Rockies and Plains, Southeast and South regions. Half of the Southeast region experienced extremes caused by drought and a record 27 percent of the South region experienced extremes caused by heavy 1-day precipitation events.
- Cold Season (October 2011-March 2012)
- The cold season, which is defined as October 2011 through March 2012 and an important period for national heating needs, was the second warmest on record for the contiguous U.S. with a nationally-averaged temperature 3.8 degrees 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 seasonal heating demands, were record warm for the six-month period.
- For the cold season (October 2011 – March 2012), the USCEI ranked second highest on record with 38 percent of the contiguous U.S. impacted by a combination of extremes, primarily from warm temperatures and ongoing regional drought and wet spells. A record 100 percent of the Northeast and Upper Midwest regions were impacted by extremes in both warm maximum and minimum temperatures during this season. The Ohio Valley and Southeast regions had between 90 percent and 100 percent coverage in extreme temperatures.
- 12-month period (April 2011-March 2012)
- The 12-month period (April 2011-March 2012), which includes the second hottest summer (June-August) and fourth warmest winter (December-February), was the warmest such period for the contiguous United States. Washington were the only states cooler than average for the period. The 12-month running average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 55.4 degrees F, which is 2.6 degrees F above the 20th century average.
Alaska Temperature and Precipitation:
- Alaska had its 10th coolest March since records began in 1918, with a temperature 7.9°F (4.4°C) above the 1971–2000 average.
- Alaska had its 9th coolest January-March since records began in 1918, with a temperature 5.2 °F (2.9°C) above the 1971–2000 average.
- Alaska had its 46th wettest March since records began in 1918, with an anomaly that was 5.3 percent above the 1971–2000 average.
- Alaska had its 39th wettest January-March since records began in 1918, with an anomaly that was 12.5 percent above the 1971–2000 average.
For additional details about recent temperatures and precipitation across the U.S., see the Regional Highlights section below and visit the Climate Summary page". For information on local temperature and precipitation records during the month, please visit NCDC's Records page. For details and graphics on weather events across the U.S. and the globe please visit NCDC's Global Hazards page.
These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Climatic Data Center.
- Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
- The Northeast saw its warmest March in 118 years, beating out the previous warmest March (1945) by 0.9 degrees F (0.5 degrees C). The region’s monthly average temperature, 44.4 degrees F (6.9 degrees C), was 9.8 degrees F (5.4 degrees C) above normal. March’s average was only 1.9 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) cooler than April’s normal average temperature and, with highs in the 80’s as far north as Maine, some days felt quite summerlike! Between March 7th and 23rd, at least 127 new maximum temperature records were set at the thirty-five first order stations in the Northeast. It was the warmest March at twenty-three of the Northeast’s first order stations; averages at the remaining stations ranked them between the 2nd and 5th warmest on record. Of the twelve states in the region, seven had their warmest March since 1895 (CT, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WV), three placed second warmest (DE, MA, NH), Maryland saw its third warmest, and Maine, its sixth warmest. Temperature departures ranged from +6.9 degrees F (3.8 degrees C) in Maine to +11.2 degrees F (6.2 degrees C) in New York. The string of above normal months stretched to twelve, and it was the 5th consecutive month with warmer than normal temperatures in all twelve states. The average for the first three months of 2012 was 34.7 degrees F (1.5 degrees C), which was 6.6 degrees F (3.7 degrees C) above normal. It was the Northeast’s warmest January through March since 1895, beating the previous record year, 1998, by 1.4 degrees F (0.8 degrees C). Ten of the twelve Northeast states had their warmest January through March since 1895. Maine and Maryland missed the top spot by 1.7 and 0.1 degrees F (0.9 and 0.1 degrees C), respectively.
- With a precipitation average that was 72 percent of normal, the Northeast saw its 22nd driest March in 118 years. West Virginia was the sole state with a positive precipitation departure, 125 percent. Departures in the eleven drier-than-normal states ranged from 87 percent in Pennsylvania to 32 percent in Connecticut. Delaware saw its 6th driest March since 1895 and Connecticut, its 7th. Three states, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, had their 10th driest March in 118 years. After logging the wettest year in 117 years in 2011, the first three months of 2012 have averaged drier than normal in the Northeast. The three-month average of 7.21 inches (183 mm) was 77 percent of normal and it was the Northeast’s 11th driest January through March since 1895. January through March precipitation totals in each of the Northeast states, except Pennsylvania and West Virginia, were within the top 14 driest since 1895, with Connecticut having its driest March on record. The lack of a significant snowpack and below normal precipitation totals resulted in drought concerns in parts of the Northeast. According to the U.S Drought Monitor issued March 27, 2012, all of Rhode Island, portions of eastern Connecticut and Massachusetts, and southeastern Delaware and Maryland were experiencing moderate drought (D1). At the same time, all the states in the region had some portion that was abnormally dry (D0). Currently, the main impact of the dry conditions has been an increase in the risk of brush or forest fires, however, water resource managers in several states have been monitoring the situation.
- The warmer than normal temperatures during March had migrating animals and spring flowers arriving much earlier than normal. Cherry trees bloomed a week earlier than predicted, leaving blossom-less trees for the many festivals celebrating the event, including the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. Early plant blooms resulted in high pollen counts – one count in Rochester, NY was double the amount normally seen in mid-March. When the temperatures headed back to normal at the end of the month, commercial fruit growers had to find ways to protect the new buds from frost damage. Ski areas hoping for a colder, snowier March to make up for loss of revenue so far during the ski season were out of luck. With temperatures peaking in the 70’s and 80’s mid-month, downhill ski areas in New England were left with slush on the slopes; several cross country ski races were cancelled due to the lack of snow. The flip side of the unusual March weather was that the fair and dry conditions allowed golf courses to open weeks ahead of schedule, lengthening their revenue season.
- Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- Extreme March warmth broke records across the Midwest. It was the warmest March on record (1895-2012) for the region as a whole and for each of the nine states as well. Preliminary estimates put the temperature at 50.3 degrees F (10.2 degrees C) for the region, easily topping the 46.9 degrees F (8.3 degrees C) recorded in 1910, and well above the normal temperature of 36.5 degrees F (2.5 degrees C). The nine states set new records by 1.4 to 4.6 degrees F (0.8 to 2.6 degrees C) based on the preliminary estimates. Cities across the region also set new March temperature records. Daily temperature record counts topped 6400 for the month, with more than 200 records each day from the 14th through the 24th, and over 800 records on the 20th alone. More than 650 of the daily records were also records for any date in March. Temperature departures were at least 10 degrees F (5.6 degrees C) above normal across the region and as much as 16 degrees F (8.9 degrees C) above normal in northwest Iowa, southeast Minnesota, and west central Wisconsin. Temperatures for the 14th through the 24th were up to 30 degrees F (16.7 degrees C) above normal in parts of Wisconsin and Michigan. Daily temperatures were more than 40 degrees F (22.2 degrees C) above normal in some cases.
- March precipitation was below normal for most of the Midwest but some areas received more than two to three times normal for the month. Northwest Minnesota totals were two to four times normal. Southwest Missouri saw total exceeding 5 inches (127 mm) common, and a few stations with 8 to 9 inches (203 to 229 mm). The central Midwest, Illinois and western Indiana along with parts of the neighboring states saw totals that were typically around 25% of normal with some locations as low as 10% of normal. Similar numbers were found from northwest Iowa to central Minnesota and east to upper Michigan. Kentucky, Ohio, and lower Michigan saw a scattered pattern of totals above and below normal. With the warm temperatures, all the winter snow pack melted away early in the month and lakes in the upper Midwest thawed well ahead of normal. Heavy snow fell in northern Michigan in the first week of the month and the same areas picked up a few inches late in the month as well. Most of the Midwest received below normal snows for March with northern Michigan and northern Kentucky being the only Midwest locations to record 2 inches (5 cm) or more above normal snow totals.
- March 2nd brought an outbreak of deadly tornadoes to the Ohio River Valley. Eight deadly tornadoes killed 39 people in storms rated from EF1 to EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale. In Kentucky, 22 died in four separate tornadoes. Indiana had two deadly storms leaving 13 dead and Ohio had four deaths in two additional tornadoes.
- Another deadly tornado touched down in southern Illinois on the 23rd. The EF2 tornado killed one and injured two others near Mt. Vernon (Jefferson County). Tornadoes were also reported that day in Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio but no other injuries were reported. .
- Drought status held relatively constant (roughly 20% of the region) in March with northwest Iowa, a small part of upper Michigan and west central Wisconsin, and nearly all of Minnesota in Moderate to Severe Drought throughout the month. The warm temperatures and generally dry conditions in March have led to a decrease in stream flow and a drying down of the soil moisture ahead of the growing season. Producers are keeping a close eye on conditions as impacts will become more apparent as crops are planted and emerge in the coming weeks.
- For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest, see the weekly summaries in the Midwest Climate Watch page.
- Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
- March was an exceptionally warm month across the Southeast region. The greatest departures were found across much of Virginia and the Carolinas as well as northern Georgia and Alabama, where monthly temperatures were 9 to 10 degrees F (5.0 to 5.7 degrees C) above average. Temperatures across the Florida Panhandle and coastal sections of Georgia and the Carolinas were 6 to 8 degrees F (3.3 to 4.4 degrees C) above average, while monthly temperatures were 3 to 5 degrees F (1.6 to 2.8 degrees C) above average across the southern half of Florida. In contrast, monthly temperatures were generally below average across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Numerous locations in the Southeast experienced their warmest March on record, including Birmingham, AL, Tampa, FL, Atlanta, GA, Columbia, SC, Raleigh-Durham, NC, and Roanoke, VA. March also ranked among the top 5 warmest at several other locations, including Mobile, AL, Tallahassee, FL, Augusta, GA, Charlotte, NC, and Richmond, VA. The persistence of warm temperatures throughout the month was particularly noteworthy, as several locations set all-time March records for number of days of 80 degree F (26.7 degrees C) temperatures and higher. Columbia, SC recorded 17 such days, breaking the old record of 13 last set back in 1974 (period of record: 125 years), while Tallahassee, FL recorded 23 dayA persistent blocking pattern developed over the US approximately ten days into March, maintaining cool and record wet conditions in the Pacific Northwest while the eastern two-thirds of the country experienced historic and unprecedented warmth. s, breaking the old record of 18 last set back in 2000 (period of record: 120 years).
- Monthly precipitation was below average across most the Southeast region in March, except across parts of central Alabama, northern Florida, and eastern sections of Georgia and the Carolinas. From the 3rd to the 4th of the month, a series of thunderstorms connected with a strong cold front produced rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches (76.2 to 152.4 mm) across parts of the Florida Panhandle and Southeast Georgia, as well as 2 to 3 inches (50.8 to 76.2 mm) across eastern sections of the Carolinas. The passage of the front also produced measurable snowfall (generally less than 1 inch or 25.4 mm) across parts of western North Carolina and much of Virginia. From the 23rd to the 25th of the month, an upper-level disturbance produced over 3 inches (76.2 mm) of rainfall locally across western and central Alabama, eastern Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. March was especially wet across Puerto Rico, with monthly totals ranging from 10 to 20 inches (254 to 508 mm) at several locations across the island (200 to 400 percent of normal). San Juan, PR recorded its second wettest March on record with 9.27 inches (235.5 mm), or more than 7 inches (177.8 mm) above average (period of record: 114 years). In contrast, the driest locations in the Southeast were found across the southern half of Florida and northern Virginia, where monthly precipitation totals were less than 25 percent of normal. Elsewhere across the region, monthly precipitation was generally between 25 and 75 percent of normal.
- There were 439 reports of severe weather across the Southeast in March, including 26 confirmed tornadoes (note: several storm surveys are on-going). All but three of these occurred as part of a large outbreak that affected the Southeast and Midwest regions from the 1st to the 3rd of the month. In the Southeast, three tornadoes reached EF-3 strength. One of these tracked across Limestone and Madison Counties in northern Alabama. Several power lines were snapped at their base while some homes suffered either a collapsed roof or exterior wall. Another EF-3 tracked across Haralson and Paulding Counties just northwest of Atlanta, GA. One person was injured due to a collapsed wall while four small airplanes were flipped and a hanger was destroyed at the Paulding County Municipal Airport. The lone fatality in the Southeast occurred in Tallapoosa County in central Alabama when an EF-2 tornado lifted and destroyed a mobile home with the occupant inside. In addition, several injuries were reported from an EF-2 tornado that dropped down with relatively little warning in Mecklenburg County outside of Charlotte, NC. The other three confirmed tornadoes were weak (EF-1 and EF-0) and touched down in southeastern Alabama and southwestern Georgia on the 23rd of the month. The combination of warm weather and frequent thunderstorm activity also proved deadly in an unexpected way. On the 16th of the month, a hot air balloonist flying over southeast Georgia died after his balloon got caught in the updraft of a nearby thunderstorm.
- Drought conditions improved during the month in areas that received above average precipitation, particularly across southeast Georgia, the Florida Panhandle, and eastern sections of the Carolinas. On the other hand, the lack of precipitation across northern Virginia contributed to the emergence of abnormally dry (D0) conditions by the end of the month. The warm winter and exceptionally warm March temperatures resulted in the early blooming of several plants and crops, including strawberries, blueberries, and apples. Several other crops, including Vidalia onions, will be able to ship several weeks earlier than last year due to the warm weather. However, a killing freeze could result in significant losses. Unusually warm temperatures also contributed to high pollen counts across the Southeast. In particular, the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic reported a weekly pollen count of 9,369 particles per cubic meter for the Atlanta metro area on the 20th of the month, which shattered the previous record count of 6,013 on April 12, 1999.
- For more information, please go to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- High Plains Region: (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)
- The High Plains Region was extremely warm and dry this month. On many days, temperatures were so warm across the Region it felt more like summer than early spring. Based on preliminary data, every station in the Region had above normal temperatures. Monthly temperature departures of 9.0-15.0 degrees F (5.0-8.3 degrees C) above normal were widespread, especially in the eastern portion of the Region. Average monthly temperature records were broken in locations in each state in the Region and most locations beat records that had been in place for over 100 years. For instance, Lincoln, Nebraska had an average temperature of 55.0 degrees F (12.8 degrees C), which was 15.6 degrees F (8.7 degrees C) above normal. Interestingly, this was also 3.8 degrees F (2.1 degrees C) above the April monthly normal temperature! The old March record of 53.4 degrees F (11.9 degrees C) occurred back in 1910 (period of record 1887-2012). In addition to setting monthly records, over 1,500 daily temperature records were tied or broken in the High Plains Region alone! The extended period of unseasonable warmth led to impressive records, a few of which are highlighted below. In North Dakota, some records were absolutely crushed. On March 16th, Bismarck, North Dakota had a record high of 81.0 degrees F (27.2 degrees C), which was 17.0 degrees F (9.4 degrees C) above the old record of 64.0 degrees F (17.8 degrees C), set in both 1894 and 1981 (period of record 1874-2012). Omaha, Nebraska reached 91.0 degrees F (32.8 degrees C) on March 31st which tied the record for the warmest temperature ever recorded in March (period of record 1871-2012). Minimum temperature records were also broken this month. For example, on March 18th, Fargo, North Dakota had a minimum temperature of 60.0 degrees F (15.6 degrees C), which was 40.0 degrees F (22.2 degrees C) above normal (period of record 1881-2012). The old record of 41.0 degrees F (5.0 degrees C) was smashed! Impacts of the unprecedented warmth were varied. The warm weather allowed for a quick and very early green-up in some parts. The last freeze of the month in many locations in Nebraska and Kansas occurred on March 9th/10th. This left many wondering about the chances of another spring freeze. If the average last spring freeze dates of mid-April to early-May are any indication, these locations will likely experience another freeze. The warm and dry conditions this month even forced some ski resorts in Colorado to close early, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette. There were many reasons for the record warmth this month, including strong southerly winds, a lack of snowpack to the north, a jet stream pattern which kept the cold Arctic air north of the Region, and a positive North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). When the NAO is positive, areas to the east of the Rockies are typically warmer than normal. For a more details about the warm March, see www.esrl.gov/psd/csi/events/2012/marchheatwave/index.html.
- Overall, March 2012 was a dry month across the High Plains Region. A large area of the Region received less than 50 percent of normal precipitation including large areas of Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming. A swath extending from northern Colorado into eastern Wyoming, the panhandle of Nebraska, and southern South Dakota received only 5 percent or less of normal precipitation. The only exceptions were parts of southern Kansas and northern North Dakota which received 150 of normal precipitation. Many locations in Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming ranked in the top 10 driest and least snowiest Marches on record. The dry conditions were quite unusual in some parts of Colorado and Wyoming where March is typically the snowiest month of the year. One impressive example of the lack of snowfall occurred in Winter Park, Colorado which only received 5.0 inches (13 cm) of snow this month. This snowfall total was 28.5 inches (72 cm) below normal and easily beat the old 2002 record of 11.0 inches (28 cm) of snowfall (period of record 1942-2012)! Many locations that typically receive snowfall in March actually received none, including Boulder, Colorado, Denver, Colorado, and Cheyenne, Wyoming. Interestingly, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, not a single March had gone by, since records began in 1871, without a measureable amount of snowfall – until this March. Cheyenne received no measureable precipitation or snowfall this month making this the driest and least snowiest March on record (period of record 1871-2012). The previous record of 0.06 inches (2 mm) of liquid precipitation occurred in both 1880 and 1882. The previous least snowy March occurred in 2004 with only 0.3 inches (1 cm).
- There were many changes to the U.S. Drought Monitor this month. The extreme drought conditions (D3) in southwestern Kansas and extreme southeastern Colorado were nearly entirely downgraded to severe drought conditions (D2). Only a small sliver of D3 remained near the Kansas/Colorado border. Eastern Kansas also had improvements as above normal precipitation led to the erasure of all drought conditions in the eastern half of the state. By the end of the month, only a small area of abnormally dry conditions (D0) remained. Other areas that had improvements included north-central North Dakota, where part of the D0 area was eliminated, eastern South Dakota where the D2 area was trimmed, and northeastern Nebraska and west-central Colorado where moderate drought conditions (D1) were downgraded to D0. While many areas had improvements, other had degradations. A large area of D1 was introduced in western South Dakota and a small area of D2 developed in northwest Colorado. In addition, D0 expanded to include northwestern Kansas, northeastern Colorado, and most of the panhandle of Nebraska. According to the U.S. Seasonal Drought outlook, drought conditions were expected to improve in Kansas and the Dakotas. Drought conditions in Colorado were expected to persist or develop.
- For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
- March was an extremely warm month for the Southern Region, with mean temperatures for the month ranging from 3 to 15 degrees F (1.67 to 8.33 degrees C) above normal. The highest anomalies occurred in northern Oklahoma and throughout much of Arkansas and Tennessee. The average mean temperature for the region was 62.79 degrees F (17.11 degrees C), which makes it the second warmest March on record (1895-2012). This value is not surprising when considering that four of the six states experienced their warmest March since records began in 1895. These states include: Arkansas, which had an average March temperature of 62.00 degrees F (16.67 degrees C), Mississippi, which had an average March temperature of 65.10 degrees F (18.39 degrees C), Oklahoma, which had an average March temperature of 59.30 degrees F (15.17 degrees C), and Tennessee, which had an average March temperature of 59.80 degrees F (15.44 degrees C). Louisiana experienced its third warmest March on record (1895-2012), while Texas experienced its sixth warmest March on record (1895-2012). The average March temperature for Louisiana was 67.30 degrees F (19.61 degrees C), while for Texas it was 63.10 degrees F (17.28 degrees C).
- With the exception of Tennessee, and much of eastern Texas, March was generally a wet month for the Southern Region. Precipitation values for the month ranged from five to fifty percent of normal in western Texas and central Tennessee to over two hundred percent of normal in eastern Texas, northern Louisiana, and northwestern Arkansas. Texas recorded 3.15 inches (80.01 mm) for the month, making it their eighth wettest March on record (1895-2012). It also marks the first time since September of 2010, that the state averaged over 3 inches (76.20 mm) of precipitation. Louisiana also recorded its eighth wettest March on record (1895-2012) with a state average precipitation total of 8.56 inches (217.42 mm). Arkansas received slightly less, reporting 7.03 inches (178.56 mm), making it their fifteenth wettest March on record (1895-2012). Oklahoma experienced its sixth wettest March on record, with a state wide average precipitation of 4.89 inches (124.21 mm). Mississippi reported 6.94 inches (176.28 mm) of precipitation for the month, which was their twenty-seventh wettest March on Record (1895). The only drier than normal state for the month was Tennessee, which reported a state average precipitation of 4.96 inches (125.98 mm); their fifty-fourth driest March on record (1895-2012).
- Drought conditions in the Southern Region improved for the second consecutive month. Anomalously high precipitation in March has led to the removal of all drought in Louisiana. Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are also drought-free. In Oklahoma, drought remains in the west, while the east has now been replenished with enough rainfall to eradicate drought there. Similar improvements occurred in eastern Texas. Drought remains a big factor in western and northwestern Texas, where March rainfall totals were relatively lower than normal.
- On March 2, 2012, dozens of tornadoes ripped through the south eastern United States. In Bradley County, six people were reported injured while reports claim that over one hundred homes were damaged. In Washington County, Tennessee, five people were killed when an EF4 twister touched down. The storm had a track length of approximately 50 miles (80 km).
- Three people were injured from a tornado that touched down in Ector County, Texas on March 19, 2012. The storm was reported to be approximately one mile (1.60 km) wide.
- One person was reported injured on March 20, 2012 when a tornado touched down in Vermillion Parish, Louisiana.
- For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Regional Climate Center)
- A persistent blocking pattern developed over the US approximately ten days into March, maintaining cool and record wet conditions in the Pacific Northwest while the eastern two-thirds of the country experienced historic and unprecedented warmth.
- Cool temperatures prevailed most of the month along the Pacific coast, in contrast to the record highs east of the Rockies. During the first week of March, a strong upper level ridge brought record highs to coastal states. Temperatures reached 91 F (32.7 C) in Long Beach, California and 63 F (17.2 C) in Ephrata, Washington on March 4. The brief period of warmth along the coast was followed by a “march” of storms that kept temperatures cool, with several record lows set in the Pacific Northwest in the latter half of the month. Frigid temperatures dominated Alaska this month as well, with many record lows throughout the state. Fairbanks, Alaska saw no temperatures above freezing all month; the only other sub-freezing March occurred in 1919.
- Farther inland, many locations saw their warmest March on record. In eastern Montana, Billings recorded an average monthly temperature of 47 F (8.3 C), the warmest March on record since 1934. To the south, Cheyenne, Wyoming saw its warmest March since 1872 with an average temperature of 44.6 (7 C); the previous record of 44.4 F (6.9 C) occurred over a century ago in 1910. Salt Lake City, Utah, with a monthly average of 49 F (9.4 C), observed its second warmest March since 1948. Denver, Colorado experienced its second warmest March since 1872 with an average of 49.2 F (9.5 C). The warmest March on record at Denver was observed in 1910, with an average 50.4 (10.2 C) for the month. Temperatures in the Southwest were moderate, with most temperature departures within 1 F (0.6 C) of normal.
- The West exhibited a strong gradient of precipitation totals this month, from inundating rains and snowfalls in the Pacific Northwest to record dryness east of the Great Basin. Some of the greatest precipitation totals were observed in Eastern Washington and the Idaho Panhandle. Kellogg, Idaho received 9.01 in (228.9 mm) of precipitation in March, surpassing the 1916 record of 6.45 in (163.8 mm). March 2012 was also the 5th wettest month (inclusive of all months) on record at this location. Spokane, Washington received 4.4 in (111.76 mm), eclipsing the previous March record of 3.81 in (96.8 mm) in 1995. Portland, Oregon, which received 7.89 in (200.4 mm) of precipitation, also experienced its wettest March since the record began in 1940. Further south, snowpack in the Northern Sierra greatly improved, bumping from 34% of normal on March 1 to 78% of normal by month’s end. The Central and Southern Sierra showed slight improvement in snowpack, but still limped along at 51% and 39% of normal, respectively as the month came to a close. Hawaii also experienced heavy rainfall and flooding this month; Lihue, Kauai recorded its second wettest March on record since 1950 at 18.17 in (461.5 mm).
- On the drier side of the West, Cheyenne, Wyoming and Denver, Colorado both experienced their most arid March on record. Cheyenne received only trace precipitation, beating out the previous March low of 0.06 in (1.5 mm) in 1882. Denver recorded 0.03 in (0.8 mm), significantly less than the previous record low of 0.11 in (2.8 mm) in 1908. Further north, Havre, Montana received 11.9 in (302.3 mm) of snow, 1.91 in (48.5 mm) snow water equivalent, on March 19, accounting for more than half of its water year precipitation total of 3.25 in (82.6 mm). Most of the Southwest received all their precipitation in one event, spanning March 17-19. During this event, Flagstaff, Arizona received 26.4 in (670 mm) of snow, more than a quarter of its season-to-date snowfall of 92.5 in (234.9 cm). Phoenix received its only measurable rainfall for the month on March 18th, giving a total of 0.25 in (6.4 mm) and tying for 34th driest year on record.
- March 2-9: Hawaii heavy precipitation and tornado event: Heavy precipitation and flooding occurred over the islands of Kauai and Oahu during this period, as well as large hail on Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Big Island. Hail up to 3 in (76.2 mm) in diameter was reported in Kaneohe, Oahu. Several precipitation records were set at Lihue, Kauai. An EF-0 tornado caused moderate damage in the communities of Enchanted Lakes and Lanikai near Kailua, Oahu on the morning of the 9th.
- March (throughout month): Avalanche fatalities: Several fatalities occurred this month due to snow avalanches triggered by skiers and snowmobilers in the backcountry. Locations included mountains near Haines, Alaska; Jackson Hole, Wyoming; and Lake Tahoe, California. Mild temperatures, strong winds and intermittent snowfall made for dangerous avalanche conditions this month in much of the West.
- March 20-21: Historic Oregon Snowstorm: Snow fell almost to sea level at locations from Portland to Eugene, Oregon. Eugene airport saw an impressive storm total of 7.5 in (190.5 mm), breaking the previous record late snowfall of 7.6 in (193 mm) on March 5-7 1951. Portland airport recorded 0.5 in (12.7 mm) snowfall for the storm total, breaking the previous late season snowfall on March 15 1946 of 0.6 in (15.23 mm). On average, Portland receives a total of 0.2 in (5.1 mm) snow in March.
- For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.
See NCDC's Monthly Records web-page for weather and climate records for the most recent month. For additional national, regional, and statewide data and graphics from 1895-present, for any period, please visit the Climate at a Glance page.
PLEASE NOTE: All of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data. The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages. Graphics based on final data are provided on the Temperature and Precipitation Maps page and the Climate at a Glance page as they become available.