The average temperature last month was 17.3 degrees. That was 10.5 degrees below average and 24.3 degrees colder than the record setting March of 2012. This past month tied March 1923, and March 1996, for the 14th coldest March since records began in 1881. It should be noted that there are 40 Marches on record with an average temperature between 15 and 20 degrees, so although last month the ranking was fairly low, a couple of nights that may have been cloudy instead of clear would have altered the ranking significantly. I point this out because although the average temperature in March is 27.8 degrees, only 43 of the 133 Marches on record have recorded an above average temperature.
When a March happens to lack snow cover, they tend to be exceptionally warm and skew the average upwards, yet as noted, approximately one out of three Marches have recorded temperatures very similar to what occurred this year. The coldest March on record was in 1899 with an average temperature of just 11.1 degrees
One of the most noticeable elements during this cold March has been the lack of days with a temperature above 32 degrees. Tomorrow looks to be only the third day this month with a high above freezing. That would rank this month as having the second fewest such days on record with only March 1898 recording fewer when only two such days occurred. Of course, the month is not quite over and the forecast would suggest more melting days are coming, but the most we can get is six total days (and likely will end up with five) above 32 degree days meaning this month will finish either ranked as the 4th or 5th fewest such days on record.
Other recent Marches with very few days above freezing include, 1969 with five days, 1965 with six days and 1975 with 7 days. On the other extreme, in 1973, all 31 days of March recorded a high above freezing. Last year, March 2012, recorded 26 such days which is tied for the 7th most since records began in 1881.
Looks like we will end up with 6 days this month, tied for the 4th fewest on record.
I have been asked frequently in the past week when was the last time we had a March this cold. Usually, I get a surprised look when I say, March 2011. It was a snowy cold month just like this year. The average temperature was about 20 degrees, which is just a few degrees from where this month will probably finish.
One distinct difference was that March did have at least a few days in the 40s and much of the snow pack melted before a significant snow event dropped 7 inches of snow on March 22 and 23 of that year. Another recent cold March was recorded back in 2002. That March occurred after a very mild winter that currently ranks as the 5th warmest on record. The winter months were so warm that March 2002 almost had the lowest average temperature of any month during that cold season.
nly January finished colder than March that winter. Cold Marches are generally not what many of us want, but in this climate, they are far more common than the mild ones.
The warmest temperature so far this month was a 35 degree high last Thursday, March 14. The record for the lowest high temperature in March was back in 1969 when the maximum temperature was only 37 degrees. Clearly, this month has a long ways to go and the odds are we will record at least a few days in the 40s as the month closes, but for now, that record has a chance to be broken.
The warmest temperature so far in 2013 was a 43 degree high back on January 10. There have been only 11 other years with a maximum high temperature cooler than that through the end of March. The weather recently has likely seemed cold because of our perceptions of not only last year, but also in 2010 when the area recorded an early and pleasant spring.
Yet, even though we will likely not end up in the Top 10 coldest Marches on record, this month may break into the Top 20 coldest
A year ago today, the high in Fargo Moorhead was 76 degrees. That broke the previous St. Patrick’s Day record of 73 degrees set back in 1968. The following day, March 18, 2012 the high was 78 degrees which came close to tying the all-time highest recorded temperature for the month of March of 80 degrees set on March 23, 1910.
Perhaps even more impressive was the low temperature on March 18, 2012 of 60 degrees. Not only did that break the daily high minimum record by 19 degrees, it broke the monthly record by 12 degrees. Previous to last year, the record for the warmest daily low temperature in the month of March was 48 degrees set in 1910, 1945 and in 2007.
March 18 was not the only day with a low temperature above that previous high minimum set during that phenomenally mild stretch in March 2012 as we recorded a low of 57 degrees on March 19 and 51 degrees on March 23.
A year ago today, the high temperature was 50 degrees in Fargo. The previous afternoon, March 9, 2012, the high was 32 degrees. That ended up being the last day of the season with a high temperature at or below freezing. Our average last day of Spring with a high temperature of 32 degrees or lower occurs on April 2. The earliest such occurrence was February 26, 1973 and the latest was recorded on May 5, 1931.
Starting with that 50 degree high a year ago, the rest of March had a stretch of warm weather moved into the area that had not been recorded so early in the year since 1910. From March 11 through March 19, six record highs were either tied or broken and on the other three days the temperature was just shy of the record.
Unlike last year, this March the temperatures have been much closer to average and the average first 50 degree day is not until March 18 and the first average 70 degree day of Spring does not arrive until April 18.
March is the month when winter slowly begins to end in the Red River Valley. The average high climbs from 29 degrees on the 1st to 46 degrees on the 31st. It is likely that by the end of this month the snow cover from winter will be gone.
Granted, there may still be snow sitting on the ground on April 1, but usually if there is, it was from a late March snow event rather than the old snow from winter. The average low will climb from 12 degrees to 26 degrees over the course of the month. The overall average temperature climbs from 14.6 degrees in February to 27.8 degrees in March, and then makes the leap to 44.2 degrees in April.
The current average precipitation for the month of March is 1.30 inches of rain and melted snow. This month averages 9.1 inches of snow but recent years have recorded quite the range from no measurable snow in 2010 to 28.1 inches in 2009. In 2012 2.6 inches was measured.
In Fargo Moorhead, the average temperature in April is 16.4 degrees warmer than the average for March. Although the exact difference will vary a few degrees from city to city, most locations in the Midwest and upper Great Plains will have a similar difference between those two months. March you will recall was the warmest on record for a large portion of the lower 48 states. Many cities recorded temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees above average.
Chicago for instance, recorded record breaking temperatures last month with an average temperature of 53.5 degrees which was 15.6 degrees above average. Although the temperature this month has continued to above normal, April will likely finish cooler than March in Chicago for only the 2nd time on record.
Locally, April is running slightly warmer than March and the warmer temperatures earlier this week will guarantee that 2012 will not be the first year when a March finished warmer than April, although, it will be
Regular readers of this space will likely remember that March 1910 was by far the warmest March on record until this year. March 1910 was not only warm locally, but throughout much of United States just like this year. As last month was coming to a close many people, including myself, were curious if March 2012 would best March 1910 as the warmest on record in the lower 48 states.
According to analysis released earlier this week from the National Climatic Data Center, last month did end up ranking as the warmest March on record for the lower 48 states. The national average temperature was 51.1 degrees which was 0.5 degrees warmer than March 1910. Considering the massive urban build up in the past 102 years and that most stations now have a warm urban heat island bias, that result was not totally surprising.
Locally, North Dakota as a whole, recorded the 2nd warmest March on record and in Minnesota the month ranked as the warmest.