March 2012: warmest in U.S. history

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 2:12 PM GMT on April 10, 2012

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Not only was March 2012 the warmest March in the U.S. since record keeping began in 1895, it was also the second most extreme month for warmth in U.S. history, said NOAA yesterday, in their monthly "State of the Climate" report. 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 that have passed since the U.S. weather records began in 1895, only one month--January 2006--had a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012. A remarkable 25 states east of the Rockies had their warmest March on record, and an additional 15 states had a top-ten warmest March. Only four states were cooler than average, with Alaska being the coldest (tenth coldest March on record.)


Figure 1. Temperature rankings for March 2012 in the Contiguous U.S. Twenty five states set records for warmest March in the 118-year records (red colors.) Image credit: NOAA.

March 2012: most daily records broken of any month since July 1936
A wunderground analysis of weather records from NOAA's National Climatic Data Center temperature record database reveals that more daily high temperature records were broken in March in 2012 than for any month except July 1936, going back at least 100 years. Fully 11.3% of all daily high temperature records for the month of March in the U.S. are now held by the year 2012, for the 550 stations in NOAA's National Climatic Data Center database that have weather records extending back at least 100 years. The only month in U.S. history holding a higher percentage of daily temperatures records is July 1936. That month holds 14.4% of all the U.S. high temperature records for the month of July. That month occurred in the great Dust Bowl summer of 1936, the hottest summer in U.S. history.



Summer in March 2012: records not merely smashed, but obliterated
Among the 15,000 daily records for warmth set in March 2012 were 21 truly astonishing ones: cases where the low temperature for the day beat the previous high temperature for the day. It is quite rare for a weather station with a 50+ year period of record to break a daily temperature record by more than 10°F. During "Summer in March, 2012", beating daily records by 10° - 20°F was commonplace, and NOAA lists 44 cases where a daily record was broken by more than 22°F. Extraordinarily, four stations broke a record for the date by 30°F or more. Canada holds the most surreal record of this nature during the "Summer in March, 2012" heat wave: Western Head, Nova Scotia hit 29.2°C (85°F) on March 22, breaking their previous record for the date (10.6°C in 1969) by 18.6°C (33.5°F.) Canada also had several stations break their all-time warmest April temperature records in March.



Last 3 months and 12 months were the warmest on record
The previous 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. The year-to-date period (January - March) was also the warmest on record. NOAA's U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, and drought, was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the January - March period. The predominant factor was the large area experiencing extremes in warm daily maximum and minimum temperatures.

Analyzing the "Summer in March, 2012" heat wave
Dr. Martin Hoerling of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder has posted a thorough analysis of the heat wave, which he calls, "Meteorological March Madness 2012". He explains that the event was probably a natural phenomenon, one that was predicted more than a month in advance by NOAA's long-range CFS model. A similar, though not as intense heat wave occurred in March 1910. However, he notes that the approximate 0.5 - 1°C warming in the Ohio Valley/Midwest U.S. in recent decades--due to human-caused emission of heat trapping gases like carbon dioxide--has significantly increased the odds of major heat waves occurring. He speculates that the odds of a 1-in-40 year heat wave in the Midwest may have increased by about 50% due to human-caused global warming, but that we really don't know how much global warming may have increased the odds of the March 2012 heat wave, saying "This issue of estimating reliable statistics of extreme, rare events continues to be a matter of active research." He estimates that human-caused global warming likely increased the intensity of the March 12 - 23, 2012 heat wave by about 5 - 10%, and concludes by saying, "The probability of heatwaves is growing as [human-caused] warming continues to progress. But there is always the randomness."

Jeff Masters

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2012 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Outlook - North Carolina State University

Excerpt:


The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be on par with the long-term average over the past 62 years and below the average activities of last 20 years. Specific forecasts are described below.

1. Expected number of tropical cyclones (tropical storms and hurricanes) developing in the Atlantic Basin: 7-10 (1950-2012 average: 10.5)

2. Expected number of hurricanes developing in the Atlantic basin: 4-7 (1950-2012 average: 6.2)

3. Expected number of major hurricanes developing in the Atlantic basin: 1-3 (1950-2012 average: 2.7)

4. Expected number of tropical cyclones in the Gulf of Mexico: 2-4

5. Expected number of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico: 1-2

6. Expected number of major hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico: 0-1

7. Number of tropical cyclones making landfall along the US Gulf coast: 1-3. There is a 84% chance at least one tropical cyclone will strike the US Gulf Coast, which reduces to 51% for a hurricane and 24% for a major hurricane.

8. There is a 66% chance at least one tropical cyclone will strike the US Southeast coast. This probability reduces to about 32% for a hurricane, and approximately 12% for a major hurricane.

9. There is a 32% chance at least one tropical cyclone will make landfall along the US Northeast coast. The chance reduces to about 12% for that storm to be a hurricane. The chance for a major hurricane to make landfall in the Northeast US coast is historically small, and is essentially unpredictable due to insufficient data sample.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting washingtonian115:
I don't watch TWC because of what it has become now.


but for severe weather events, it rules.
For the april 14-16 event, i spent 40 minutes in Costco watching it.
Superb coverage, info, pictures, etc, plus they cover all viewing areas.
Other than that i do not watch it.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9452
Quoting GeorgiaStormz:


i wished i had watched it on 4/27.
but my mom got rid of our tv service, and as i was doing school stuff, i was not allowed to check the weather even for all my begging.
So i pretty much missed the whole event, except when i saw a supercell in NW alabama on our local tv radar station( which uses composite reflectivity so every supercell looks like a blob anyway.)

took me a looooong time to get over that.
I don't watch TWC because of what it has become now.
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The new gfs has the 60kt shear axis extending into MS, AL, and GA.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9452
Quoting washingtonian115:
I haven't watched TWC in over a year.Not even for Irene.So for a while their I had forgot they even existed.


i wished i had watched it on 4/27.
but my mom got rid of our tv service, and as i was doing school stuff, i was not allowed to check the weather even for all my begging.
So i pretty much missed the whole event, except when i saw a supercell in NW alabama on our local tv radar station( which uses composite reflectivity so every supercell looks like a blob anyway.)

took me a looooong time to get over that.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9452
We may think that Irene is going and that is the most probable thing to happen but there is always a slim chance it won`t happen.
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Quoting KEEPEROFTHEGATE:


Another beautiful photo.
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interesting low in central atl... lets wait and see
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Quoting BahaHurican:
I keep telling people... considering the difference in population, u guys are wusses.... lol

Congrats... but we coming for that crown and throne thing next year....

you know that wasn't our strongest team...lol
we'll see about that
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Quoting hydrus:
Not bad all things considered...I remember Georges well. Very scary looking storm. All of us at work were wondering how bad it would get in S.W.Florida. We lucked out, but the Keys were not as fortunate.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d 0/Hurricane_Georges_28_sept_1998_2043Z.jpgInitial forecasts of a southeastern Florida landfall forced over 1.2 million to evacuate, including much of the Florida Keys. Despite the mandatory evacuation order, 20,000 people, including over 7,000 Key West citizens, refused to leave. Some of those who remained to ride out the storm were shrimpers, whose boats were their entire livelihood. Insurance companies refused to insure some of the older shrimp boats, leading shrimpers to ride it out with all they had left. Due to lack of law enforcement, those who stayed in Key West went through red lights, double-parked, and disobeyed traffic laws. Long-time Florida Keys citizens noted the solitude of the time and enjoyed the island for how it once was, rather than the large crowds of tourists.
I remember thinking after Georges killed so many and did so much damage across the Greater Antilles that Georges would be the "storm of the season".

Then came Mitch.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:




Member Since: July 15, 2006 Posts: 165 Comments: 52262


What do you all think about Isabel??
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I haven't watched TWC in over a year.Not even for Irene.So for a while their I had forgot they even existed.
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Quoting nigel20:

hey Baha...your team was trying to dethrone us (Jamaica) the champions of carifta, but they failed...well done though
I keep telling people... considering the difference in population, u guys are wusses.... lol

Congrats... but we coming for that crown and throne thing next year....
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Quoting hydrus:
Him and John Hope.

Agreed!
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Their is a video on Youtube about Georges from Cyclone Jim.It really catches the power of that storm.
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:



That's the pic..look at that beauty
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:


I remember seeing Steve Lyons that afternoon before the power went out. Here is an impressive radar loop.

Member Since: April 29, 2009 Posts: 75 Comments: 13299
Quoting wunderkidcayman:
hey guys I feel like crap so what did I missed today while I was gone besides the fact that Doc has a new blog

whats up wunderkidcayman......not much just recently we have been talking about. Cat 5 hurricanes
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Quoting hydrus:
Him and John Hope.
John Hope is rolling in his grave about how crappy TWC has truly become.It's all about the ratings,the looks,and money now.He was very series about his weather.
GeoffreyWPB.I can't believe it's been 100 years and neither will Grothar.I'm going to go and see the movie again this year.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Now that's better :).And who the hell is tigerosee?

A blogger here.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
Quoting nigel20:

Dr. Steve Lyons was great on TWC
Him and John Hope.
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2002-2004 IMO (10-13 Storms)
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:


Now that's better :).And who the hell is tigerosee?
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Quoting nigel20:

hey hydrus...hope you had a great easter weekend?
Not bad all things considered...I remember Georges well. Very scary looking storm. All of us at work were wondering how bad it would get in S.W.Florida. We lucked out, but the Keys were not as fortunate.http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d 0/Hurricane_Georges_28_sept_1998_2043Z.jpgInitial forecasts of a southeastern Florida landfall forced over 1.2 million to evacuate, including much of the Florida Keys. Despite the mandatory evacuation order, 20,000 people, including over 7,000 Key West citizens, refused to leave. Some of those who remained to ride out the storm were shrimpers, whose boats were their entire livelihood. Insurance companies refused to insure some of the older shrimp boats, leading shrimpers to ride it out with all they had left. Due to lack of law enforcement, those who stayed in Key West went through red lights, double-parked, and disobeyed traffic laws. Long-time Florida Keys citizens noted the solitude of the time and enjoyed the island for how it once was, rather than the large crowds of tourists.
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Quoting GeoffreyWPB:

Dr. Steve Lyons was great on TWC
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Does anybody have a link to SAB/TAFB? I lost it.

you know I was going to ask that same question some day so well now that you did ask I'll ask too so yes does anyone have link?
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Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
Does anybody have a link to SAB/TAFB? I lost it.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
hey guys I feel like crap so what did I missed today while I was gone besides the fact that Doc has a new blog
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Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Hurricane Igor near/at peak intensity:




Igor was a large monster...luckily it didn't landfall near peak intensity
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Quoting GeorgiaStormz:
Ok, who is JFV that you should all be so worried about him?
Is he a supertroll?
Or the MEGA-troll?
And who is Cat5Hurricane?

a. Yes
b. Yes
c. A troll
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 79 Comments: 7295
Quoting TropicalAnalystwx13:
Hurricane Igor near/at peak intensity:



That first picture does now do him justice.He was more beautiful than that.
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Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Ok, who is JFV that you should all be so worried about him?
Is he a supertroll?
Or the MEGA-troll?
And who is Cat5Hurricane?
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9452
Hurricane Igor near/at peak intensity:



Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
Quoting hydrus:
Long time since I have seen you post. Hope you are doing good.

hey hydrus...hope you had a great easter weekend?
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Quoting washingtonian115:
I agree...Oh come on people now everyone wants to leave the blog?


your avatar scared us away.
Member Since: February 11, 2012 Posts: 0 Comments: 9452
Quoting nigel20:

yeah, that's a good idea
Then again the Cape verde islands do have some sort of economic crises if I'm correct.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Their was satellite estimates that put Igor as a cat 5 with winds estimated around 160mph.Mmmmm one might invest that they put a base for the HH on the cape verde islands.

yeah, that's a good idea
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Oh, lol, I see we're already talking about Category 5's.
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
It's been 20 years since we've had a Category 5 hurricane hit the United States, and it has been 5 years since we've actually had a Category 5 anywhere in the Atlantic (I can't officially count Igor).
Member Since: July 6, 2010 Posts: 108 Comments: 30257
Quoting nigel20:

I think it was a cat 5 as well, but we will never know as it was too far away for recon at peak intensity
Their was satellite estimates that put Igor as a cat 5 with winds estimated around 160mph.Mmmmm one might invest that they put a base for the HH on the cape verde islands.
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Quoting Gearsts:
I wll never forget that monster :( And 1 month with no power!
Long time since I have seen you post. Hope you are doing good.
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Quoting ncstorm:


Irene didnt cause all the flooding..the grounds were already saturated and rivers were near flood levels..the NE had heavy rains before Irene got there..it wont be retired..


You'd be surprised... by the time to get to 6, 10, 12"+ rainfall totals, soil moisture really starts to matter very little. Soil moisture differences matter most for your lower-end rainfall events.
For example, say you have dry soil conditions and get 3" of rainfall. Maybe 1.5" would soak in and 1.5" of rainfall would runoff to streams, or about 50%. If it were saturated, almost 3" would runoff, nearly 100%.
Again with dry soil conditions and 10" of rainfall, maybe 2.0" would soak in and 8.0" would runoff - about 80%.

Rivers/reservoirs/retention basins being full before the event, well that is a slightly different story and would have a bigger impact.
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Quoting washingtonian115:
Gearsts thanks.I haven't tracked a category 5 in the Atlantic in over 5 years..although one might argue that Igor was one.Interesting enough 03,04,and 05 had cat 5's back to back.Their as a break in cat 5 activity in 06 but that quickly picked back up in 07.I still believe Igor was one..

I think it was a cat 5 as well, but we will never know as it was too far away for recon at peak intensity
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Quoting BahaHurican:
Sorry ya'll. Politics is "hotting up" here in the Bahamas this week, with elections slated for some time in the next 4 - 6 weeks. So my wx fervor has been ... sidetracked a bit by listening to a radio call-in voter poll...


hey Baha...your team was trying to dethrone us (Jamaica) the champions of carifta, but they failed...well done though
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Quoting spathy:



They dont have a set date for the election?
Nope. Think UK politics.

The last 2 elections have been on May 2... but we don't expect that this time. However, the election must happen by 22 May, so it will be soon.

At least it won't be like '92, when we had the election on the 19th and Andrew on the 24th... lol

Of course, if we're talking early formation.... well, anything is possible... lol

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Gearsts thanks.I haven't tracked a category 5 in the Atlantic in over 5 years..although one might argue that Igor was one.Interesting enough 03,04,and 05 had cat 5's back to back.Their was a break in cat 5 activity in 06 but that quickly picked back up in 07.I still believe Igor was one..
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Quoting nigel20:

Georges dealt quite a blow to Puerto Rico
I wll never forget that monster :( And 1 month with no power!
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About JeffMasters

Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.