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Weatherwatch: March/April 2012

March 2012

The contiguous United States experienced its warmest March, breaking a record set more than a century ago. Warmth was especially dominant east of the Rockies, where every state experienced a top-10 March average temperature. In fact, record-setting March warmth affected 25 states from the Plains to the East Coast, including all of the Midwest. Monthly temperatures averaged at least 15°F above normal at numerous Midwestern locations, while scattered below-normal readings were mostly confined to the Pacific Coast States.

Although the nation as a whole noted its wettest March since 1998, little or no precipitation fell in a broad area stretching from the Southwest to Eastern Montana and the Western Dakotas. Unusually dry weather also prevailed in the Northeast and across Florida's peninsula. In contrast, March storminess approximately doubled the water content of the high-elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack, slightly improving California's water-supply prospects. Across the remainder of the West, the water-supply outlook was mixed; the Northwest had abundant snowpacks and favorable reservoir levels, while the Southwest suffered from mostly below-average snowpacks and reservoir holdings.

Weatherwise Contributing Editor BRAD RIPPEY is the U.S. Editor of the Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin of the Joint Agriculture NOAA Weather Facility.

Weatherwise Contributing Editor JEFFREY B. HALVERSON is an associate professor of geography at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

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