Record Heat, March 2012
Videos, Mon, Apr 16th, 2012
NCDC climate scientist Deke Arndt talks about the record March heat and the cumulative effect of a warm fall, winter, and early spring on “heating degree days,” an estimate of the energy demand during the U.S. cold season.
Deke Arndt, Chief of the Climate Monitoring Branch, National Climatic Data Center.
You’re watching daily temperature records being broken–and in some places shattered–day by day during March of 2012. And you can see them migrate in waves across the country. And when you consider both high temperatures and low temperatures, we had more than 15,000 of these records broken during the month. That’s a lot compared to a normal month, and that’s a lot even compared to previous heat waves.
And you take all of those warm days and nights during March, and you bring them together, and what you get is…the warmest March on record for the contiguous United States. And that’s a history that dates back to 1895. So March 2012, the average temperature was 51.1 degrees, which is 8.6 degrees above the 20th century average.
And you take this warmest March on record and you add it to what was the fourth warmest winter on record and you add that to a warm late fall…and you get the warmest “heating season” on record. Those are the months of October through March, and that’s when heating demands are in play for much of the United States.
So think about heating your house. If the temperature goes below 65 degrees, you’ll turn on the heat. And every degree below 65 is a heating degree. So if the average temperature is 60 for a day, that’s five heating degree days for that day. Now this map shows how different this last heating season was from an average one. Where you see the orange, that was a place that was much warmer than normal, and they accumulated much fewer heating degree days than in an average season.
As you might suspect by looking at this map, and probably from your own experience too, energy demand was way down during the cold season. People simply spent less money heating their homes. And that’s just one of the stories from this extremely warm winter which ended with an exclamation point named March. Now we just watched how day-by-day weather builds into months, and into seasonal climate and understanding this transition and this relationship is a big part of being climate smart.
For climate.gov, I’m Deke Arndt.
For additional information on record heat in March 2012, see It’s official: March 2012 warmth topped the charts.
Spring 2013 has brought something fairly unusual in recent years—colder-than-average temperature for the nation as a whole. NOAA’s Deke Arndt talks about how spring temperatures in three U.S. climate divisions compare to the local long-term trend.
During late winter, Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas received sorely needed rain which helped reduce short-term impacts, like wildfire and dry topsoil. But it has taken months to develop deep and severe drought in the region, and a few wet weeks won’t erase that situation. It can take months of ideal conditions to bring soil, rivers, and vegetation back to health.
On any given day or any given month, somebody somewhere experiences colder-than-average temperature, even though the globe as a whole is warmer than average. We know this through climate monitoring, which entails measuring temperature on land and across the ocean.