March Came In Like A Lamb, Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records

March 2012 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

It’s official. This was “the warmest March on record” since records began in 1895, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

How hot was it? It was so hot that NOAA reports “there were 15,272 warm temperature records broken (7,755 daytime records, 7,517 nighttime records).”

NOAA released some amazing charts and factoids yesterday:

  • Hundreds of locations across the country broke their all-time March records. There were 21 instances of the nighttime temperatures being as warm, or warmer, than the existing record daytime temperature for a given date.
  • A persistent weather pattern led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest.
  • NOAA’s U.S. Climate Extremes Index, an index that tracks the highest 10 percent and lowest 10 percent of extremes in temperature, precipitation, drought and tropical cyclones, was 39 percent, nearly twice the long-term average and the highest value on record for the January-March period [see figure]:

U.S. Climate Extremes Index was the highest on record so far in 2012.

It was so hot that “March heat records crushed cold records by over 35 to 1” and top scientists and meteorologists said that global warming loaded the dice. If you prefer sports metaphors, like a baseball player on steroids, our climate system is breaking records at an unnatural pace.

It was so hot that both ABC News and NBC ran excellent stories that connected the heat wave to global warming. Here is the ABC story, which spells out the health and food security “dangers” posed by “extreme climate risks”:

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Here is the NBC News story, which labels manmade global warming, “the prime suspect” for the heat wave:

Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters said, “this is not the atmosphere I grew up with.” He published a detailed statistical analysis concluding, “It is highly unlikely the warmth of the current ‘Summer in March’ heat wave could have occurred unless the climate was warming.

Weather Channel meteorologist Stu Ostro called the heat wave “surreal” and explained that “While natural factors are contributing to this warm spell, given the nature of it and its context with other extreme weather events and patterns in recent years there is a high probability that global warming is having an influence upon its extremity.”

Here are more excerpts from NOAA’s March 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 (117+ years) that have passed since the U.S. climate record began, only one month, January 2006, has seen a larger departure from its average temperature than March 2012.
  • A persistent weather pattern led to 25 states east of the Rockies having their warmest March on record. An additional 15 states had monthly temperatures ranking among their ten warmest. That same pattern brought cooler-than-average conditions to the West Coast states of Washington, Oregon, and California.
  • The nationally-averaged precipitation total was 2.73 inches, which is 0.33 inches above average. The Pacific Northwest and the Southern Plains were much wetter than average during March while drier-than-average conditions prevailed in the interior West, Northeast, and Florida. Colorado had its driest March on record.
  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of April 3rd, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, a decrease from 38.7 percent at the end of February and an increase from 28.8 percent a year ago on April 5, 2011. Above-average precipitation across the Southern Plains improved long-term drought conditions Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
  • Warmer-than-average conditions across the eastern U.S. also created an environment favorable for severe thunderstorms and tornadoes. According to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center, there were 223 preliminary tornado reports during March, a month that averages 80 tornadoes annually. The majority of the tornadoes occurred during the March 2nd-3rd outbreak across the Ohio Valley and Southeast, which caused 40 fatalities. Total losses from this event are estimated to exceed $1.5 billion dollars, making this the first event of 2012 to exceed one billion dollars in damages and losses.
  • On March 9, a large weather system impacted the Hawaiian Islands, bringing extreme rainfall and severe thunderstorms. A rare EF-0 tornado hit the towns of Lanikai and Kailua on Oahu, causing minor damage. A hailstone with the largest diameter on record for the state, measuring 4¼ inches, fell on Oahu during this event.
  • The first three months of 2012 were also record warm for the contiguous United States with an average temperature of 42.0°F, 6.0°F above the long-term average.
  • Twenty-five states, all east of the Rockies, had their warmest first quarter on record, and an additional 16 states had first-quarter temperatures ranking among their ten warmest.

Since the science of attributing extreme events to global warming is still emerging, scientists still disagree to what extent a specific event like this heat wave is driven by global warming. But two of the leading experts explain at RealClimate why even small shifts in average temperature mean “the probability for ‘outlandish’ heat records increases greatly due to global warming.” Furthermore, “the more outlandish a record is, the more would we suspect that non-linear feedbacks are at play – which could increase their likelihood even more.”

And remember, we’ve only warmed about a degree and a half Fahrenheit in the past century.  We are on track to warm five times times that or more this century.

In short, we ain’t seen nothing yet!

14 Responses to March Came In Like A Lamb, Went Out Like A Globally Warmed Lion On Steroids Who Smashed 15,000 Heat Records

  1. Jim says:

    Here in Michigan everyone seemed to really like the summer in March thing. No ice and snow to drive on, winter coat put away, nice sunny warm days.

    What I kept thinking was “what’s it going to be like when one of these things hits in July or August?”

    I’m certain people will not find it so pleasant.

  2. Thorn says:

    When will the global temps for March be released? Also, I’ve seen numerous references to La Nina causing the warm temperatures, but isn’t it actually El Niño that causes this? If so, then shouldn’t we be extremely concerned over the next El Niño cycle?

  3. Paul Magnus says:

    ‎”In addition, the January through March period of 2012 was the warmest first quarter of the year on record. Records date back to 1895 in both cases.”

    NOAA: March 2012 the Warmest on Record –
    NOAA has crunched the numbers on March 2012. See where the incredibly warm month ranks in history.

  4. Paul Magnus says:

    Theres going to be a special report on this on the weather channel this Thus…

  5. Paul Magnus says:

    hottest 29 September ever. Finningley in Lincolnshire reached 29C (84F), smashing the previous record set in 1895 in York, when the mercury hit 27.8C (82F).

  6. Joan Savage says:

    La Niña conditions began to taper off in February and we are headed towards ENSO-neutral conditions by the end of April, we are not yet on the El Niño side of the cycle.

    The catch is that the ENSO cycle is acting like a wheel going up hill, as the ‘lower’ La Niña side of the wheel is now higher up in temperature than where the El Niño ‘peak’ side was thirty years ago.

  7. Joan Savage says:

    World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is a clearinghouse of weather data from nations around the world. You can find raw data there.

    Tracking the average global temperature shift is a far more statistically heavy process that addresses interpolation between sites, quality control issues, and seasonal variability. Let’s wait to see what NOAA and NASA may say.

  8. Len Conly says:

    We need to be concerned about our emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases which are the prime movers of these weather extremes. Only sharp reductions in emissions of these gases will mitigate what is to come. El Nino is a minor issue.

  9. Thorn says:

    Obviously we need to reduce GHGs, however, if the next El Niño causes a temperature spike on top of a warming bias, a la 1998, then that seems like a pretty big concern to me.

  10. Peter says:

    Fires up and down the east coast. Whats next? Or do I really want to know.

  11. Spike says:

    Indeed. Hansen makes the point in his climate dice paper that land warming in the summer is the most significant aspect of climate change to humanity. I would guess it will also be the most critical time for plants, crops, and forests.

  12. Spike says:

    A Met Office spokeswoman told Channel 4 News the baking weather was not down to climate change.

    “It’s just normal variability… the normal wacky British weather,” she said.

    I wonder what science the spokesperson used to be so certain. I would hope it wasn’t one of their climatologists.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Same in Australia. All Government meteorological spokesmen and carefully selected ‘scientists’ appearing in the MSM ignore anthropogenic climate destabilisation, and, if it is brought up, deny it emphatically. If anything is untoward it’s all ‘natural variability’ or naughty old La Nina.