During the course of March, large chunks of the U.S. experienced spells of warm weather unmatched in recorded history. More than 7,700 daily record high temperatures were set (or tied, compared to just 287 record lows), in some cases by mind blowing margins and over multiple days. In several instances in the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest region, morning lows even bested record highs and high temperatures soared above mid-summer norms.
It’s no surprise that, after data were crunched, scores of cities (90+ in 23 states according to Capital Climate) easily set March monthly records for warmth.
While the East Coast certainly experienced an impressively warm March, the Midwest and Great Lakes marked the epicenter of the massive early spring surge. Monthly average temperatures were 15 degrees or higher above the climate normals in many places. Only the West Coast and segments of the Southwest were cooler-than-normal.
Here’s a selection of the cities that set all-time March records for warmth: Albany, Atlanta, Bismarck, Buffalo, Burlington, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Des Moines, Detroit, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Pittsburgh, Roanoke, Syracuse, St. Louis, Washington, D.C.
In many of these cities, March temperatures were more than 10 degrees above average and as warm or warmer than April averages.
Let’s take a closer look at just how warm a few of these cities were in a historical context:
Minneapolis, Minnesota: The March average temperature was 15.5 degrees above normal and 1.7 degrees above the April normal. It had its earliest 80 degree temperature on record and the most 70 degree days on record for the month. (Sources: Updraft - Minnesota Public Radio and Paul Douglas)
Chicago, Illinois: Its record warm March (by 15.6 degrees) would have been the 7th warmest April on record (Source: Capital Climate). It tied or broke record high temperatures on 9 straight days.
Des Moines, Iowa: From the National Weather Service - Last month was by far the warmest March on record. The average temperature of 55.7 bested the old record of 51.5 (set in 1910) by fully 4.2 degrees. This is the widest margin by which a monthly temperature record has ever been broken at Des Moines
Washington, D.C.: It was 10 degrees above average during March, equivalent to its average April temperature. More information.
In addition to the cities that easily set record highs for the month, several others fell just short. New York City (Central Park) missed its warmest March by just 0.2 degrees although Kennedy and La Guardia airports ranked top warmest. Philadelphia, Denver and Richmond also had their second warmest March on record.
Especially along the East Coast, some locations that were unusually warm were also unusually dry. Central Park, New York had its fourth driest March on record, and Washington, D.C. tied for its sixth driest.
On the flip side, Portland, Oregon and Spokane, Washington, had their wettest March on record. (Source: Cliff Mass Weather Blog)
The contrast in the pattern was related to a huge ridge in the jet stream that dominated the eastern two-thirds of the country, and a dip in the jet stream in the western U.S.
(CWG’s Matt Rogers contributed to this post)