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SOME EAST COAST STATES HAVE DRIEST MARCH EVER, SEVERE DROUGHT CONTINUES IN SOUTHWEST, SOUTHERN PLAINS, RECORD RAINFALL IN HAWAII

NOAA image of winter March 2006 statewide temperature rankings.April 17, 2006 It was the driest March on record for five East Coast states and the wettest month in parts of the Hawaiian Islands, according to scientists at the NOAA National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. March 2006 also was warmer than usual, with an average temperature of 44.0 degrees F, or 1.5 degrees above the 1895-2005 statistical mean. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter March 2006 statewide temperature rankings. Please credit “NOAA.”)

U.S. Rainfall
Overall, March precipitation was near average for the nation but was marked by extremely dry conditions along the East Coast. Much of the West and Central U.S. was wetter than average for the month.

Last month was the driest March on record for five eastern states—New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and Florida. Twelve other East Coast states were much drier than average. Many East Coast locations had their driest March on record, such as New York's Central Park (0.80 in.), Wilmington, Del., (0.29 in.), Washington National Airport, (0.05 in.), Richmond, Va., (0.20 in.), and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., (0.03 in.). At the end of March, moderate drought was present across large parts of the mid-Atlantic (North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware) according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

NOAA image of winter March 2006 statewide precipitation rankings.Moderate-to-extreme drought (as defined by a widely-used measure of drought—the Palmer Drought Index) affected about 26 percent of the contiguous U.S. This represents a slight increase over the February 2006 extent, largely due to the onset of moderate drought across parts of the Tennessee Valley, southern Appalachians and mid-Atlantic. (Click NOAA image for larger view of winter March 2006 statewide precipitation rankings. Please credit “NOAA.”)

However, a large storm system brought beneficial rain and snow to parts of the Plains and West and flooding rainfall to Texas on the last weekend of astronomical winter (March 18-20), when more than 7 inches of rain fell in the Dallas area. The rain and snow helped ease short-term drought through the southern and central Plains and Southwest, but severe-to-extreme drought remained entrenched across much of the region. Other areas in the West received abundant rain and snow during March with Utah much wetter than average for the month. Several cities in northern California had a record number of days with rain for March, including 25 days for San Francisco and 23 days for Redding.

The Hawaiian Islands were much wetter than normal, with a record rainfall total on Mt. Waialeale (Kauai) of 93.7 inches. This was nearly 60 inches above normal and broke the April 1971 record of 90.07 inches. Six weeks of excessive rainfall over the state resulted from a persistent upper level wind and pressure pattern that steered storm systems across the islands.

U.S. Snow
Snowpack across the West reflected the general distribution of precipitation over the past several months with parts of the Northwest at more than 150 percent of normal. Much of the Southwest had less than 50 percent of normal winter snowpack at the end of March, despite heavy snow during the month. Flagstaff, Ariz., had 40 inches of snow in March compared to only 1.6 inches that fell during the fall and winter months and remained well below the year-to-date normal amount of 96 inches.

Several significant snow storms affected the nation last month, with a particularly widespread snow event affecting much of the Plains on March19 and 20. During the event, a new 48-hour snowfall record was established at Grand Island, Neb., with more than 20 inches falling, breaking the previous record by more than 5 inches. At least 10 inches of snow fell across a broad area of the plains from Colorado and Kansas north to the Dakotas.

U.S. Temperature
The average temperature for the contiguous United States for March (based on preliminary data) was warmer than average at 44.0 degrees F (6.7degrees C). This was 1.5 degrees F (0.8 degrees C) above the 1895-2005 mean, making it warmer than two-thirds of the March temperatures on record. This is the fifth warmest January-March period on record in the U.S., largely due to a record warm January. Only one state—California—was significantly colder than average with several towns, such as Redding, Sacramento and San Francisco, having their coldest March on record. Warmer-than-average conditions were present for 22 states across the Plains, especially the southern Plains, lower Mississippi and parts of the Northeast. From January through March 2006, temperatures were much above average for the nation, with 29 states having much warmer-than-average conditions.

Global
The average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces during March 2006 (based on preliminary data) was 1.01 degrees F (0.56 degrees C) above the 20th century mean. This was the 7th warmest March since 1880 (the beginning of reliable instrumental records) as the cold phase of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (La Niña) persisted in the equatorial Pacific. Anomalously warm land surface temperatures covered much of central Asia and northern Africa, while cooler than average temperatures were widespread across much of Europe.

NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA Climate of 2006—March in Historical Perspective

NOAA National Climatic Data Center

NOAA Drought Information Center

Media Contact:
John Leslie, NOAA Satellite and Information Service, (301) 457-5005