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March has meant 6,000 weather records broken

We've seen an amazing, historic run of record warmth in March 2012. It's been the talk of towns from Minnesota and Michigan to Tennessee and Georgia for a couple of weeks now.

First, consider the sheer number of daily record highs either tied or broken over the past two weeks. The counts in the table below are courtesy of the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) since Mar. 9. Counts from Mar. 23 are still being tabulated and will be posted later.


Day # of Records
Fri. Mar. 9 101
Sat. Mar. 10 105
Sun. Mar. 11 189
Mon. Mar. 12 138
Tue. Mar. 13 218
Wed. Mar. 14 460
Thu. Mar. 15 662
Fri. Mar. 16 496
Sat. Mar. 17 565
Sun. Mar. 18 586
Mon. Mar. 19 510
Tue. Mar. 20 710
Wed. Mar. 21 575
Thu. Mar. 22 295

If you pull out your calculator and add the numbers up from March 1 through March 22, the total exceeds 6,000! This speaks to the widespread nature and longevity of this warm spell. By the way, there have been only about 250 daily record lows during that same time, a ratio of roughly 24 record highs for every record low.

In a typical March, particularly in the nation's northern tier, you may see, perhaps, one or perhaps two days of record warmth before a sharp cold front brings that spring tease to a screeching halt. Not so in March 2012.

When considering monthly record highs, meaning the warmest temperature on record for the month of March, according to NCDC, there have been 430 such monthly record highs tied or broken!

International Falls, Minn., self-promoted as the "Icebox of the Nation", tied or broke daily record highs 12 of 13 days from Mar. 10-22. This includes a 79-degree reading on March 18, which was the warmest day ever recorded during March in International Falls.

Chicago, Ill., tied or set new daily record highs nine days in a row from March 14-22! In this streak, eight of the days were in the 80s, including an astounding 87-degree high on March 21. The National Weather Service in Chicago recently called the warm spell "historic" and something that is unlikely to be matched in our lifetime.

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Wednesday, March 21, both Marquette, Mich., (81 degrees) and Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., (83 degrees) shattered their previous March record highs. In Marquette, it was their earliest-in-season 80+ degree day on record, breaking the old record by 22 days! Despite a shorter period of record in Marquette (records since 1961), that's still an amazing feat.

Thursday, March 22, Detroit, Mich., reached 86 degrees, setting an all-time record high for the month of March. The previous record was set just the day before. Prior to this March 2012 warm spell, the record was 84 degrees set in late March of 1945. If that wasn't enough, their 10-day streak with highs at least in the 70s was their longest such streak so early in the season, topping the previous record by over a month!

Plotted on the interactive map here are the many records set for various cities in this mild March. Zoom in on the map and click on the red locator icons to view the record-breaking information for each location. You will find many cities that have set records for the warmest temperatures so early in the season, monthly records or longest streaks of warm weather so early in the season.

Below is a map of temperature departures from average for the first three weeks of March. Notice the massive swath of much warmer than average air from the Rockies east (brown, red, orange shadings). Many spots are 10 to 15 degrees above average for the month so far!

Chicago, Detroit and Indianapolis are all currently seeing their warmest March on record with only a handful of days to go in the month. Records date back to the 1870s in all of these cities.

NOAA/CPC

This shows temperature departures from average for the first 23 days of March 2012. The brown shadings show where temperatures have been most above average.

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