The United States Experiences the Warmest March on Record

 
You probably noticed the unseasonably warm temperatures in March, especially during the latter half of the month.  At San Angelo, the final 10 days of March saw high temperatures reach or exceed 80 degrees.  Abilene experienced similar conditions during the final 8 days of the month.  West Central Texas was not alone in feeling this unusual warmth.  In fact, March 2012 will go down as the warmest March on record for the entire United States (as a whole).

 

March 2012 Statewide RankingsThe average temperature (average of high and low) across the United States was 51.1 degrees F, besting the 20th century average March temperature by 8.6 degrees F.  This was 0.5 degrees F warmer than the previous record of 50.6 degrees F, set more than 100 years ago in 1910.  In the 117+ years of data collection (approximately 1400 months), only 1 month (January 2006) experienced a greater departure from normal than March 2012. 

 

More than 15,000 record temperatures were set during the month of March, including 21 instances of the nighttime low temperatures being warmer than the previous record highs for that day.

 

So, how did we fare close to home?  While we did not really threaten monthly records at Abilene and San Angelo, we did manage to set a few record high minimum temperatures at both sites.  Despite seeing temperatures warm into the mid 90s over the few days of the month, we experienced no record high temperatures.  Cumulative temperatures for the month ranked relatively high on the list of all-time average temperatures for the month.  See the tables below:

 

Abilene
Rank Temp (F) Year
 1 65.6 1907
 2 63.6 1910
 3 63.5 1967
 4 63.5 1938
 5 63.0 1904
 6 62.9 1935
 7 62.7 1925
 8 62.5 1974
 9 62.5 1916
10 62.2 2012
11 61.9 1908
12 61.3 1918
San Angelo
Rank Temperature Year
 1 65.0 1908
 2 64.9 1974
 3 64.8 1967
 4 64.5 2011
 5 63.4 1911
 6 63.3 1910
 7 63.0 2000
 8 62.8 1938
 9 62.5 1963
10 62.4 1972
11 62.4 1953
12 62.2 2012
Fig 1. Warmest Average March Temps  Fig 2. Warmest Average March Temps

As you can see from the tables, Abilene (Fig. 1) experienced the 10th warmest March on record, but fell nearly 3.5 degrees short of the all-time mark.  Similar numbers were seen at San Angelo (Fig. 2) where 2012 ranked as #12 on the all-time list for March.  Take note of #4 on the San Angelo list.  The average temperature recorded last year in San Angelo finished only 0.5 degrees below the record value.

The good news is that despite the warm temperatures, we continued to see rainfall amounts near normal across the southern Plains.  San Angelo finished the month of March with 1.49 inches (0.01 inches below normal) and Abilene measured 1.21 inches (0.53" below normal).  As a nation, the average rainfall for the month of March was 2.73 inches, which was 0.33 inches above normal.  This average was likely slanted toward the very good rainfall amounts over the southern Plains during the month, with some portions of the Sabine River Valley receiving in excess of 15 inches of rain.  The images below show the rainfall for the area during the month of March.

  

Observed Rainfall

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