March climate highlights

April 19th, 2013 at 9:14 pm by under Weather

From NOAA NCDC:

Climate Highlights — March

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  • The March average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 40.8°F, which was 0.9°F below the 20th century average. This was in stark contrast to temperatures from one year prior when March 2012 was the warmest such month on record for the nation. 2013 marked the coolest March since 2002, when the monthly nationally-averaged temperature was 2.2°F below average.
  • Much of the eastern U.S. was cooler than average during March, with the exception of New England, which was slightly warmer than average. Eleven states in the Ohio Valley, along the Gulf Coast, and in the Southeast had March temperatures that were among their ten coolest. In fact, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and North Carolina had March 2013 temperatures that were cooler than January 2013.
  • The Arctic Oscillation (AO) is a measure of pressure patterns across the Arctic and can relate to temperatures in the middle-latitudes, including the U.S., during the winter and spring months. The AO was in a strongly negative phase during most of the month. The monthly-averaged AO index was the most negative value on record for March and was associated with the prolonged cold air outbreak that impacted states from the Canadian border to the Southeast.
  • Temperatures were above average for parts of the West. Arizona, California, and Nevada each had March temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. Above-average temperatures were also observed in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,Utah, and New Mexico.
  • The March average precipitation for the contiguous U.S. was 1.68 inches, 0.72 inch below average, and the fifth driest March on record. This marked the driest March since 1966, when the nationally-averaged precipitation total was 1.51 inches.
  • A large area of the contiguous U.S. had near- to below-average precipitation totals during March. The West, Southern Plains, Gulf Coast, and Northeast were particularly dry. Louisiana had its fourth driest March, with 31 percent of average precipitation for the month. Wyoming tied its fifth driest March, with 47 percent of average precipitation. Minnesota was the only state with above-average March precipitation.
  • Several storms impacted the U.S. bringing late-season snowfall to the eastern two-thirds of the country. According to data from the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March snow cover extent for the contiguous U.S. was nearly 1.0 million square miles, 239,000 square miles above the 1981-2010 average, and the 10th largest March snow cover extent in the 47-year period of record. However, snowpack, an important water resource in the West, was below-normal in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as the Central and Southern Rockies.
  • Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 127 percent of average during March and the 31st highest value in the 119-year period of record. This was the highest REDTI value for March since 1996.
  • According to the April 2 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 51.9 percent of the contiguous U.S. was experiencing moderate-to-exceptional drought, smaller than the 54.2 percent at the end of February. Drought conditions improved in parts of the Southeast, as well as the eastern edge of the core drought areas in the Central and Southern Plains, due to increased precipitation over the past three to six months. Drought remained entrenched across the rest of the Great Plains and interior western states.
  • Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January — March)
  • The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. for the year-to-date period was 35.8°F, 0.5°F above average. Much of the nation had near-average January–March temperatures. The Northeast and parts of the Northern Rockies were warmer than average, while the interior western states and parts of the Mid-South were cooler than average.
  • The nationally-averaged precipitation total for the year-to-date period was 6.04 inches, 0.60 inch below average.
  • The West, Northeast, and Florida were drier than average for the three-month period. California had its driest January-March on record with a precipitation total 8.53 inches below the long-term average of 11.48 inches. Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming also had one of their ten driest year-to-date periods on record.
  • Wetter-than-average conditions were present for parts of the Midwest and Southeast. Michigan had its tenth wettest January-March with precipitation 136 percent of average.

Climate Highlights — cold season (October 2012 — March 2013)

  • The U.S. cold season, defined as October–March, was 1.1°F warmer than average, with a nationally-averaged temperature of 40.3°F. A large area of the country had near-average temperatures during the six-month period, while the Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast were warmer than average. Vermont experienced its eighth warmest cold season, with an average temperature 3.6°F above average.
  • The cold season was drier than average for the nation as a whole, with a precipitation total of 12.16 inches, 0.95 inch below average. Drier-than-average conditions were present from the West Coast, through the Mountain West and into the Central and Southern Plains. Above-average precipitation was observed in the Midwest, the central Gulf Coast, and Mid-Atlantic.
  • 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 below average during the cold season. However, the component that examines the spatial extent of drought was three and a half times the normal value for the six month period and the third largest value in the 103-year period of record. Only the cold seasons of 1953/54 and 1934/35 had larger drought components of the USCEI.
  • The REDTI value for the cold season was 79 percent of average and ranked as the 25th lowest value for the October-March period.

Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)

  • With the exception of Texas and Oklahoma, March proved to be a much cooler month than expected. Temperature averages throughout the central and eastern portions of the region ranged between 4 to 8 degrees F (2.22 to 4.44 degrees C) below normal, with the coldest anomalies situated in north eastern Arkansas, and throughout most of Tennessee. Temperatures in Oklahoma typically averaged only slightly cooler than normal. This was also the case for much of eastern Texas. In the western counties of Texas, temperatures averaged only slightly above normal. The state average temperature values are as follows: Arkansas averaged 46.2 degrees F (7.89 degrees C), Louisiana averaged 55.2 degrees F (12.89 degrees C), Mississippi averaged 50.1 degrees F (10.06 degrees C), Oklahoma averaged 47.2 degrees F (8.44 degrees C), Tennessee averaged 42.6 degrees F (5.89 degrees C), and Texas averaged 56.9 degrees F (13.85 degrees C). Both Tennessee and Mississippi reported its sixth coldest March on record (1895-2013). For Arkansas, it was the tenth coldest March on record (1895-2013), while Louisiana posted its sixteenth coldest March on record (1895-2013). All other state rankings fell in the middle two quartiles.
  • With the exception of Texas and Oklahoma, March proved to be a much cooler month than expected. Temperature averages throughout the central and eastern portions of the region ranged between 4 to 8 degrees F (2.22 to 4.44 degrees C) below normal, with the coldest anomalies situated in north eastern Arkansas, and throughout most of Tennessee. Temperatures in Oklahoma typically averaged only slightly cooler than normal. This was also the case for much of eastern Texas. In the western counties of Texas, temperatures averaged only slightly above normal. The state average temperature values are as follows: Arkansas averaged 46.2 degrees F (7.89 degrees C), Louisiana averaged 55.2 degrees F (12.89 degrees C), Mississippi averaged 50.1 degrees F (10.06 degrees C), Oklahoma averaged 47.2 degrees F (8.44 degrees C), Tennessee averaged 42.6 degrees F (5.89 degrees C), and Texas averaged 56.9 degrees F (13.85 degrees C). Both Tennessee and Mississippi reported its sixth coldest March on record (1895-2013). For Arkansas, it was the tenth coldest March on record (1895-2013), while Louisiana posted its sixteenth coldest March on record (1895-2013). All other state rankings fell in the middle two quartiles.
  • Below normal precipitation totals in Texas, have caused some drought conditions in the southern portions to worsen, but in general, drought conditions in the Southern Region have not changed significantly over the past month. As was the case last month, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee remain drought free. Though there is still some moderate drought in western Arkansas, the bulk of the severe to extreme drought conditions are still localized to Texas and Oklahoma, with little changes to total areal extent.
  • In Texas, frontal passages have also been causing damage across the state, with several storm systems bringing thunderstorms high winds to the state. Hailstorms and thunderstorms caused building damage and power outages to over 2,900 in Kyle, Hamilton, Austin, and Burnet in several isolated events. The driest portions of west Texas, particularly near and west of Lubbock, saw several high wind days that caused dust storms. Dry grasslands, driven by high winds from frequent frontal passages, are leading to growing fire concerns, as several wildfires have burned over 750 acres, such that $161 million dollars for fuel removal and wildfire control is in the process of passing through the state legislature (Information provided by the Texas State Climate Office).
  • In Texas, new agricultural problems are cropping up as well. The latest frontal system brought below freezing temperatures, causing fears that wheat crops could be damaged. High rainfall deficits have farmers rethinking plans to grow cotton, reducing the estimated planting numbers by 25 percent. Feed prices continue to ruse, causing ranchers in west and south Texas to reduce herd numbers. By the end of March, herd populations were the lowest seen since 1967, causing a meat processing plant in San Angelo, costing 200 jobs (Information provided by the Texas State Climate Office).
  • On March 18, 2013, several hail reports were issued throughout northeastern Louisiana and central Mississippi. In Morehouse Parish, Louisiana, golfball to baseball-sized hail was reported.
  • On March 30, 2013, two twisters were reported in eastern Oklahoma. Some minor damage was reported, but fortunately, no one was injured by the events.
  • For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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