March 2012 Global Weather Extremes Summary
March was notable weather-wise for the extraordinary early spring heat wave that affected the eastern two thirds of the U.S. and southern and eastern portions of Canada. It was one of the most anomalous temperature events on record for anywhere in the world. March heat records were also set in Scotland, Iceland, Norway, the Summit station on the peak of Greenland's ice cap, and Perth, Australia. A massive tornado outbreak in the U.S. killed 39. Cyclone Irina resulted in 72 deaths in Madagascar and severe storms with flooding rains occurred in Hawaii and eastern Australia.
Below is a summary some of the month’s highlights.
The amazing ‘summer in March’ across the eastern two thirds of the country resulted in a nationwide average temperature of 51.1°F, some +8.6°F above the normal March average of 42.5°F, and thus the 2nd most anomalously warm month in U.S. history (only January 2006 was even more above the average). A large section of the upper Midwest experienced temperatures more than 15°F above normal.
This map shows how widespread the March heat event was with about half of all the continental state divisions reporting their warmest March on record. Map from NCDC.
Jeff Masters has already commented in detail about the event as I also did in a blog on March 23.. So please refer back to our earlier blogs on the subject for more details.
As the eastern two-thirds of the country sweltered it was, in contrast, unusually cold in the western states of Washington, Oregon, and California. Some very unusual late-season snowfalls occurred in Oregon where heavy snow fell right on the Pacific coastline of Oregon. 8.5” of snow accumulated at Tillamook, 7.5” at Newport, and 3.5” at Bandon on March 12. Inland, a late-season record heavy snowfall of 7.5” accumulated in Eugene on March 20-21. A record dry rainy season in California was rudely interrupted by torrential rains in mid-March. One location (Scotts Creek) in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco picked up 20.32” of rain on March 10-13.
A freak late-season snowfall blankets the coastal Oregon town of Lincoln City on March 12. Photo from wunderground.com and taken by Kristina Rinell.
While Oregon and Washington reported close to their wettest March on record in Colorado it was the driest such and most ski resorts reported their lowest March snowfalls on record. Texas received much greater rainfall than average helping to alleviate the drought conditions of last year.
A massive tornado outbreak on March 2-3 killed 39 people from Indiana to Alabama. Approximately 80 separate tornados formed including a rare early-season EF-4 twister that hit Henryville, Indiana killing 12 in that small town alone. An excellent summary of the event can be found here.
An aerial view of the damage inflicted on Henryville, Indiana by the EF-4 tornado that killed 12 in the town on March 2. Photographer unknown.
Hawaii was affected by a series of strong weather systems March 4-8 that produced severe thunderstorms, one of which produced a state-record size hailstone 4” in diameter on the north coast of Oahu. An amazing 45.95” of rain fell at Hanalei during the storm period including 35.97” in just the two-days of March 7-8.
The coldest temperature in the northern hemisphere during March was -72.9°F (-58.3°C) at Summit station in Greenland on March 12. In spite of this cold reading, a March monthly record high temperature of 11.3°F (-11.5°C) was set at the Summit station on March 24. A remarkable rise of almost 85° in two weeks.
SOUTH AMERICA and CENTRAL AMERICA
I am unaware of any major extreme weather events in Central or South America this past March.
Much of Western Europe experienced a very dry and abnormally warm March. Portions of Italy received no measureable precipitation whatsoever and for most of all of southern Europe it was the driest March on record. In the U.K. it was the driest March since 1953 and 5th driest on record exasperating the ongoing drought situation. Temperatures in the U.K. averaged 4.5°F (2.5°C) above normal, the warmest March since 1957 and 3rd warmest on record. The average maximum temperature was, at 6.5°F (3.6°C) above normal, the warmest ever recorded for the month. An all-time record maximum temperature for Scotland was set at Aboyne, Aberdeenshire on March 27th when it reached 74.5°F (23.6°C). The previous record was 72.0°F (22.2°C) at Gordon Castle in March 1957. The coldest temperature reported in the U.K. during the month was 16.7°F (-8.5°C) at Braemar, Scotland on March 18. The greatest 24-hour rainfall was 1.80” (45.6mm) at Cluanie Inn, Highland on March 18-19, and highest wind gust 71 mph at Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland on March 7.
Iceland also set its warmest March temperature on record when it reached 68.9°F (20.5°C) at Kvisker on March 29th. This smashed the old March record of 65.8°F/18.8°C (set at Eskifjorour on March 28, 2000) by an astonishing 3°F (1.7°C).
Apparently a new March heat record for Norway was also set by an even wider margin. A temperature of 73.6°F (23.1°C) was recorded at Landvik Grimstad on March 27 beating the old national March heat record of 67.6°F (19.8°C) set at Frederiksberg on March 25, 1945.
A long-term drought in portions of central Africa has resulted in a series of large wildfires in the region surrounding Mt. Kenya, displacing much of the wildlife the area is so famous for.
The hottest temperature in the world (and, of course, northern hemisphere) during March was 114.8°F (46.0°C) measured at Abu Na Ama, Sudan on March 14.
Tropical Cyclone Irina churned about the Mozambique Channel (between Mozambique and Madagascar) for 7 long days March 2-8. It never made landfall and its winds topped out at just 85 mph, but persistent flooding rains affected mountainous areas of southern Madagascar causing flash floods that killed at least 72. A further 8 deaths were attributed to the storm in Mozambique.
Heavy snows in the mountains of Afghanistan resulted in an avalanche that killed at least 37 in the northeastern village of Shirinazen, Badakshan Province on March 3-4.
An unusual (for time of year and southerly latitude) tropical storm, named Pakhar, came ashore in southern Vietnam near Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) on March 31. Fortunately the storms 115 mph winds had diminished to just 50 mph as it crossed the Mekong Delta region so only 4 deaths were reported.
March was the 4th wettest nationwide in 113 years of record. It also was abnormally cool, with maximum average temperatures ranking as the 4th coolest on record. A marked exception to the general coolness was the southwestern corner of Western Australia, especially in and around Perth. Perth recorded its warmest March temperature on record when it reached 106.5°F (41.4°C) on March 11, part of a record tying March heat wave that lasted four days with 100°F (38°C)+ temperatures (March 9-12). The highest temperature in the country and the southern hemisphere for the month was 112.3°F (44.6°C) at Kalbarri on March 9. The coldest temperature in the country for the month was 32.0°F (0.0°C) at Mount Read, Tasmania on March 23.
A very cool month for all of Australia except for the coastal region of Western Australia. Map courtesy of Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
Record rainfall during the first week of the month resulted in widespread flooding in portions of northern Victoria, southern and western New South Wales, and central Australia. Several sites recorded their all-time calendar day rainfall records during this week. The greatest single-day rainfall measured was 13.47” (342.2mm) at Daradgee, Queensland on March 26.
One of the wettest March’s on record, and, in fact, THE wettest March on record for widespread portions of New South Wales. Map courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.
One of the creepier aspects of the flooding was a spider invasion around Wagga Wagga in New South Wales when floodwaters forced arachnids (in this case wolf spiders) from their burrows into surrounding brush where they wove phantom-like webs.
A couple of photos of the blanket of cobwebs produced by wolf spiders escaping floodwaters near Waga Waga in New South Wales. Photos from Reuters.
NEW ZEALAND/SOUTH PACIFIC
Some of the worst flooding in Fijian history killed at least 5 and displaced 8,000 on Viti Levu following a week of torrential rainfall that culminated in Cyclone Daphne passing over the island chain on March 31.
French Polynesia (where Tahiti is located) experienced abnormally warm temperatures and an all-time absolute maximum temperature of 95.7°F (35.4°C) was registered at the town of Hereheretue on Tuamotu Island on March 9th.
New Zealand’s extremes for the month were a maximum temperature of 84.6°F (29.2°C) at Timaru, South Island on March 24, a minimum temperature of 27.3°F (-2.6°C) at Lake Pukaki (March 26) and also Hanmer Forest on March 9, South Island. The greatest daily rainfall was 6.61” (168mm) at North Egmont on March 2 and also at Kerikeri on March 18, both on North Island. A wind gust of 99mph (158 km/h) was measured at Brothers Island on March 3.
The coldest temperature in the southern hemisphere and the world during March was -97.8°F (-72.1°C) recorded at Dome A site on March 28th.
KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for global temperature extremes data, Stephen Burt for the U.K. extremes, and Jeremy Budd for New Zealand weather extremes. Also special thanks to Trausti Jonsson of the Icelandic Meteorology Office for information concerning the new March heat records in Iceland and Norway.
Christopher C. Burt