April Colder Than March So Far

I realized this morning that I was wearing short-sleeve shirts in March and long-sleeve shirts (and a light jacket) in April. It’s like that movie Freaky Friday about the mother and daughter switching bodies, only in this case March and April have switched.
[updated April 25] The statewide average temperature for April 1-24 is 53.7 degrees. The statewide average temperature for March was 55.0 degrees, based on the latest numbers from NOAA.  That means that April was more than a degree cooler than March. What makes this even more freaky is that the April temperatures are still 2.6 degrees above normal!
BTW, the statewide normal monthly temperature is 40.7 degrees for March and 51.7 degrees for April, an eleven degree rise.
How rare is it for April to be colder than March? In the statewide records that extend back to 1895, it happened only in 1907 when the March temperature was 47.0 degrees and the April temperature was 43.2 degrees. In all the other cases between 1895 to 2011, April was always warmer.
Will this strange situation continue through the end of April? The forecast is for warmer temperatures Wednesday but then a return to cooler conditions afterwards. So we have a good shot at maintaining this record.

World View of March Temperatures

One of the advantages of using satellites to measure temperatures is that you can get a world view, even over the oceans. The University of Alabama-Huntsville produced this map of temperature departures around the globe for March 2012. The temperature departures are in degrees Celsius, so if you double them you can get a ballpark idea of the temperature departures in degree F.
The area of much above normal temperatures are clearly seen in much of the U.S. and Canada. Warmer than normal temperatures were also found in western Europe and the north-central Pacific Ocean. Meanwhile, colder than normal temperatures were seen in Alaska and parts of eastern Europe and northern Asia. The Southern Hemisphere was much quieter.
On a monthly time scale, it is very common when certain areas are experiencing unusual conditions that other areas are experiencing the exact opposite. The global temperature departures for March 2012 from the satellite data was calculated at +0.11 degrees Celsius (+0.2 degrees F).

Global temperature departures in the lower atmosphere for March 2012. Map courtesy of the University of Alabama-Hunstville and Dr. John Christy. Click to enlarge.

More Discussion on the Warm March

I have collected several discussions from NWS offices and elsewhere about the warm March and why it happened. Most of these reports offer more details about specific locations. The technical report goes into considerable detail about the underlying meteorological conditions.

In a nutshell (I always think of the Austin Power’s movie when I say that), March 2012 was dominated by unusually strong and steady flow of warm, moist air out of the Gulf of Mexico. That is in sharp contrast to a typical March where we swing back and forth between winter and spring-like temperatures as cold fronts and warm fronts often move through the state.
In fact, from a national perspective the widespread warm March has drawn comparisons to March 1910. See for yourself how these two compared.

March 1910 temperature departures for the U.S. Click to enlarge.

March 2012 temperature departures for the U.S. Click to enlarge.

Record Setting March

March Temperature

The statewide average temperature for March in Illinois was 54.9 degrees, 13.8 degrees above normal. That makes it the warmest March on record. So here are the ten warmest March’s in the Illinois statewide records that date back to 1895:

  1. 2012: 54.9°F
  2. 1946: 51.6°F
  3. 1910: 50.9°F
  4. 1945: 50.5°F
  5. 1921: 49.1°F
  6. 1938: 48.1°F
  7. 2007: 47.6°F
  8. 1973: 47.5°F
  9. 1907: 47.0°F
  10. 1918: 46.4°F

The warmest temperature report in the state was Chicago O’Hare on March 21 with 87 degrees. The coldest temperature report was Monmouth on March 5 with 5 degrees. 

January-March Temperature

The statewide average temperature for January-March in Illinois was 40.9 degrees, 9.1 degrees above normal. That makes it the warmest January-March on record.  Here you will notice that the 2000s are on the list three times as are the 1990s.

  1. 2012: 40.9°F
  2. 1921: 39.2°F
  3. 1990: 38.7°F
  4. 1946: 38.1°F
  5. 1938: 37.6°F
  6. 1998: 37.3°F
  7. 1992: 36.9°F
  8. 2006: 36.7°F
  9. 2000: 36.7°F
  10. 1973: 35.9°F

March Precipitation

The statewide average precipitation was 2.11 inches, 1.1 inches below normal or 66 percent of normal. The statistics are nothing like the March temperatures, but it did end up being the 31st driest March on record for Illinois. Precipitation was below normal across much of the state. However, there were a few wet spots with Fairview Heights (IL-SC-16) reporting the highest monthly total of 4.88 inches of precipitation. Here are the maps of accumulated precipitation and the departure from normal for March in Illinois.

March 2012 precipitation in Illinois. Click to enlarge.

Precipitation departure from normal for March 2012 in Illinois. Click to enlarge.

March Snow

With all the attention on the record warmth, it’s hard to remember that we did see snow in March. The largest monthly total was reported at Roscoe (IL-WN-2) with 5.6 inches of snow.

March 2012 snowfall in Illinois. Click to enlarge.