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March 2011 Global Weather Extremes Summary

By: Christopher C. Burt, 7:40 PM GMT on April 15, 2011

March 2011 Global Weather Extremes Summary

Extreme weather highlights for this past March include a stormy month in California, wild temperature swings in Asia with record rainfall in Thailand and relief from the prolonged drought in China.

Below are some of the month’s highlights.


A series of powerful storms slammed California during the month resulting in 21 days of measureable precipitation in San Francisco and bringing the Sierra snowpack to its highest level since 1995. Seasonal snowfall at Donner Summit approached 740” by the end of the month (the record seasonal snowfall was 819” in 1937-1938). The 3-year-long drought emergency in California was officially rescinded.

Up to ten feet of snow buried the Soda Springs General Store and Post Office near California’s Donner Summit the week ending March 28th. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli.

A sharp cold front passed over the Northeast on March 5-7 resulting in some wild temperature swings and heavy precipitation. In Houlton, Maine the temperature rose from -24°F on March 4 to 47°F on March 7 (an amazing 71°F rise!) and then dropped back to -4°F by March 9. One of the city’s heaviest 3-day precipitation accumulations also resulted when 3.24” were measured March 5-7, mostly in the form of rain.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area reported heavy flooding at the end of the month when 8.19” of rain fell March 28-31.

The coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere for the month was measured at Summit Station, Greenland on March 17 with a -77.8°F (-61.0°C) reading.


Torrential rain in the southern Brazilian states of Parana, Rio do Sul, and Santa Catarina resulted in severe flooding and mudslides March 11-14. At least 12 lives were lost and 2700 homes were destroyed leaving 8000 homeless.


Unusually warm weather towards the end of the month (15°F above normal) resulted in a deadly avalanche in the Swiss canton of Valais on March 25. Five skiers were killed while traversing a high altitude piste near the Great St. Bernard Pass.


An all-time national heat record was set for the Republic of Congo when the temperature reached 102.6°F (39.2°C) at Mpouya on March 8. The previous record was 102.2°F (39.0°C) at Impfondo on May 14, 2005. The capital city of Kinshasa may also have broken its all-time heat record with a 98.6°F (37.0°C) reading on March 28. The hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere and also for the whole world for the month of March was recorded at Kiffa, Mauritania on March 30th with a 114.8°F (46.0°C) reading. The hottest temperature for the month in the Southern Hemisphere was measured at Vioolsdrif, South Africa on March 1 when 111.9°F (44.4°C) was recorded.


Perhaps the most anomalous weather event of the month was the series of invasions of cold air into Southeast Asia during what is normally one of their hottest months of the year. On March 17th Bangkok recorded its coolest daytime high on record for any month when the temperature failed to rise above 68°F (normal high for the date was 93°F) at the Don Maung Airport location. Another cold blast at the end of the month brought a high of just 71°F on March 29th. The month ended up being the coldest March on record for the city. The invasion of cold air into the Gulf of Thailand resulted in phenomenal rainfall on the resort island of Ko Samui where 43.92” of rain fell during the single week of March 23-30. Of this, 16.33” fell on just March 28th possibly a national 24-hour record for rainfall for Thailand (another 7.72” fell the following day!). The worst flooding in many years killed at least 25 in the south of the country and hundreds of tourists had to be evacuated by air from some island resorts.

This NASA composed image of accumulated rainfall for the week ending March 30 indicates up to 48” of rainfall fell over Thailand’s Kra Isthmus.

A flooded street on the tourist resort of Ko Samui on March 28th following the fall of 20” of rain in the previous 24 hours. Photo by Rungroj Yongrit.

Meanwhile, west of Southeast Asia, March was one of the hottest such on record for portions of Bangladesh and India. Mumbai (Bombay) recorded its all-time hottest temperature on record for any month when a reading of 106.9°F (41.6°C) at the downtown site of Colaba. Records at this site go back to 1846.

In northern China welcome rains and snow alleviated what was on the verge of becoming one of the most catastrophic droughts in history for the country’s wheat growing regions in and around Shandong Province.


Abnormally wet weather continued to plague Australia as the past March became the wettest such in the country's recorded history. It was the 6th wettest month of any month on record (this following February which was the 4th wettest month on record). Bambaroo, Queensland recorded 51.20” (1300.6mm) of precipitation during the month, one of 41 stations with at least 50 years of record to report their wettest March on record.

Rainfall in Australia during March as a percentage of the historical average for the month. Image courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.

It was a very cool month as well, in fact the coolest March on record so far as average maximum temperature were concerned. The national maximum for the month was just 106.0°F (41.1°C) at Roebourne, Western Australia on March 19th, the lowest absolute maximum for a March in at least 50 years.

Departure from normal for the average maximum temperature during the month of March. Image courtesy of the Australian Bureau of Meteorology.


The lowest temperature recorded in the Southern Hemisphere and anywhere in the world during the month was -90.0°F (-67.8°C) at Vostok Station on March 15th.

KUDOS Thanks to Maximiliano Herrera for temperature data, Blair Trewin for Australian records.

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The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.