Wednesday, April 06, 2016

March in the U.S.: Crazy Mild, Inconsistently Wet

Figure 1. State-by-state temperature rankings for March 2016. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI) Click to Enlarge.
After the mildest winter in U.S. history, March kept the theme going.  Last month ended up as the 4th warmest March in records going back to 1895, according to the monthly analysis released on Wednesday by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  The warmth was much more consistent than usual for a strong El NiƱo year (see Figure 3), and more extensive than had been projected in February’s outlook for March.  All 48 contiguous states (plus Alaska) were substantially milder than average.  Every state from the Northern and Central Plains east to New York notched a top-ten warmest March (Figure 1), although only Alaska (not shown) had its warmest March on record. The nation’s most impressive burst of early-spring warmth arrived in Alaska on the last day of the month, when southeastern parts of the state basked in summer-like readings.  A high of 71°F on March 31 at Klawock set a state record for March. 

Figure 2. State-by-state precipitation rankings for March 2016. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI) Click to Enlarge.
Precipitation:  big winners, big losers
For the nation as a whole, it was a reasonably moist month overall--the 26th wettest March on record for the 48 contiguous states--but the precipitation map itself is a checkerboard of anomalies (Figure 2).  The most striking was in the Southwest:  New Mexico had its driest March on record (the statewide average was just 0.06”), while its next-door neighbor, Texas, had its 12th wettest March (2.85”).  This juxtaposition is a bit artificial, because most of the heavy rains in Texas were focused in the state’s eastern reaches, next to Louisiana (2nd wettest March on record) and Arkansas (3nd wettest).  Likewise, although California had its 24th wettest March, most of that liquid gold fell in the northern and central parts of the state, with precious little in Southern California.

Some of the other impressively wet and dry states included Wisconsin (2nd wettest), Mississippi and Michigan (4th wettest), Washington (8th wettest), Virginia (7th driest), New Jersey and Arizona (9th driest), and Pennsylvania (10th driest).

Read more at March in the U.S.: Crazy Mild, Inconsistently Wet

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