NOAA: March Temperature Near Average for the U.S.
April 10, 2009
The March 2009 temperature for the contiguous United States was near the long-term average, based on records going back to 1895, according to an analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Heavy precipitation last month also pushed the Red River, along the Minnesota-North Dakota border, to record levels, triggering major floods.
The average March temperature of 43.2 degrees F was 0.6 degrees F above the 20th century average. Precipitation across the contiguous United States in March averaged 2.51 inches, which is 0.11 inch above the 1901-2000 average.
U.S. Temperature Highlights
- Across the Northwest, March temperatures were below average, while the Southwest and Central regions were above normal. Temperatures in the South were slightly above average.
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand was 3.7 percent below average in March.
U.S. Precipitation Highlights
- Minnesota experienced its second wettest March, and areas of the South were also wetter than normal. By contrast, New Jersey had its 10th driest March on record, while Arizona, Maryland, and Pennsylvania each ranked in the 12th driest category.
- For the January – March period, most of the contiguous United States had below-average precipitation, including Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey, which had their driest January – March periods on record. Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and West Virginia had their second, fourth, and fifth driest such periods, respectively. In the Southwest, New Mexico and Utah had their eighth and 10th driest January – March periods, respectively.
- It was unusually wet in the upper Midwest, where North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota had their fourth, sixth, and ninth wettest January-through-March period, respectively.
- At the end of March, 25 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate-to-exceptional drought, based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is one percent more than at the end of February. Severe, or extreme, drought conditions continued in parts of California, Florida, Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and the southern Plains, with exceptional drought in southern Texas.
- Record amounts of snow fell in North Dakota during March. Fargo received 28.1 inches, which was nearly 2 more inches than the previous March record set in 1997. Fargo also recorded 4.62 inches of precipitation which set a new monthly record. Bismarck nearly broke a March monthly snowfall total with 29.7 inches.
- Major flooding affected areas along the Minnesota-North Dakota border as the Red River swelled to record and near-record levels. Well-above normal precipitation compounded the flooding potential brought on by extreme precipitation surpluses accumulated during autumn and winter. The six-month precipitation for the October-through-March period was the wettest on record for much of the Red River’s drainage basin in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.
- Based on preliminary estimates, there were 115 tornadoes reported in the U.S. in March. This was below the three-year average (2006-2008) for March of 149 tornadoes, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center.
- Approximately 14,078 wild land fires burned 401,741 acres across the nation in March, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center. The total number of wildfires and acres burned since the start of 2009 are both well above their respective 10-year averages.
NCDC’s preliminary reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.
NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.