NCDC's March Madness

To read this report, one might conclude that at 1.4 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average, things are looking really bad for US temperatures…that is, until you look at the March temperature records of the past which aren’t part of this report. For example, one March was 7.99 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. Gosh, the global warming must have been fierce then. What March could that be? 2007, 1998, 1934? Answer below,  but first, this official NCDC report for the press and public:


NOAA: U.S. had above normal temperatures and precipitation in March

Last month, temperatures and precipitation in the contiguous United States averaged above normal, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The average temperature in March was 44.0 degrees F, which is 1.4 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average. March precipitation, while record dry in areas like Texas, was overall 0.22 inch above the long-term average. The January – March temperatures were near-normal, while average precipitation was below-normal.

This monthly analysis, based on records dating back to 1895, is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides.

March temperature “statewide ranks” maps are available at the NCDC site.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

U.S. climate highlights – March

  • Above-normal warmth dominated much of the southern U.S. and Rocky Mountains. The largest temperature departures were in Western Texas and New Mexico, which had its fifth-warmest March on record. Midland, Texas had four consecutive days—March 16 – 19—of temperatures that tied existing records.
  • Cooler-than-normal temperatures were present in the northern and western areas of the country. Conditions were especially cool from southwestern Minnesota across the Dakotas into eastern Montana. Within this belt, March temperatures were as much as 6 degrees below the 20th Century average.
  • Precipitation varied across the country, as the west and east coasts received above normal amounts, while the central and southern United States was largely dry. Texas had its driest March on record, with a statewide average of 0.27 inch. This was 1.47 inch below its 20th Century average, and broke the previous record of 0.28 inch set in 1971. It was the third driest March in New Mexico and 10th driest in Oklahoma.
  • Record warm maximum temperatures exceeded record cold minimum temperatures by a 5-to-1 ratio.
  • Washington, Oregon and California had their second, fifth, and ninth wettest March on record, respectively. Regionally, it was the second wettest March on record for the Northwest. In the Northeast, Pennsylvania had its third wettest such period.
  • Drought conditions continued to intensify across much of the nation in March. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the overall footprint of drought did not increase, holding fairly steady at about 24 percent of the country. However, the area covered by the “Severe” and “Intense” drought categories almost doubled, from about 12 percent early in the month, to more than 20 percent at month’s end.
  • Dry conditions across the Southern Plains contributed to above average wildfire activity during March. Across the U.S., approximately 385,000 acres burned, marking the second most active March in terms of wildfires on record, behind March 2006.
  • Tornado activity was above average, with 115 preliminary tornado reports.  Most of the tornado activity was confined to the Southeast and Gulf Coast, which is typical of early spring.

March (2011) precipitation "statewide ranks" map.

March precipitation “statewide ranks” maps are available at the NCDC site.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

U.S. climate highlights – first quarter of 2011, rolling six- and 12-month periods

  • It was the tenth driest first quarter for both the South and Southwest climate regions.   New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas experienced their second, fifth and ninth driest January-March period, respectively.
  • Both the rolling six-month and 12-month periods generally show that the northern United States has been generally wet, while the South has been dry.
  • On the six-month timescale, October 2010 through March 2011, above-average precipitation occurred across much of the West, the Northern Plains and the Northeast. Nevada and Vermont each had its third-wettest such period, followed by Pennsylvania (fifth wettest), New York (eighth), and Utah (ninth). The southern plains, Midwest and Southeast were generally dry during the period, with more unusual dryness focused in the South Central United States. It was the fourth driest October 2010 – March 2011 for Texas, sixth driest for Oklahoma, seventh for Arkansas and Louisiana, and the eighth driest for New Mexico.
  • Over the past 12 months, April 2010 – March 2011, a belt of abnormal wetness stretched from the western Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest. Wisconsin had its wettest such period. Its precipitation average of 41.52 inches was more than 10 inches above its 20th century average. Additionally, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota experienced their second wettest such period. Precipitation was below normal in the South during this period. It was the fourth driest in Louisiana, fifth driest in Arkansas, ninth driest in Florida, and 10th driest in Mississippi.

NCDC’s State of the Climate reports, which assess the current state of the climate, are released soon after the end of each month. These analyses are based on preliminary data, which are subject to revision. Additional quality control is applied to the data when late reports are received several weeks after the end of the month and as increased scientific methods improve NCDC’s processing algorithms.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us on Facebook.


Ok you’ve seen the official NCDC report for the press and public.

Now, here’s what NCDC left out of that report, from their own data plotting page, here, I have produced this graph:

March 2011 ranks 79th coolest (38th warmest) out of 117 years, at 43.95 degrees F with March 1910 being the warmest at 50.55 degrees F.

Many other March average temperatures for the USA were far and above March 2011, and many were cooler too. NCDC’s lack of historical perspective in their public report gives an incomplete picture.

It’s very easy to include, as I have demonstrated, so why not do it and make it available? I look forward to future reports from NCDC that show a complete historical picture of US temperature to the American public.

h/t to Dr. Leif Svalgaard

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Ray Boorman
April 12, 2011 12:29 am

Anthony, expecting climate reports from AGW advocates to be unbiased is, sadly, as likely as expecting that the sun will rise in the West tomorrow. And as politicians (wilfully) only take their information from those same advocates, there is still years of work ahead for the goodguys such as Steve McIntyre & yourself.

April 12, 2011 12:29 am

Last paragraph; “NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment….”. It’s a mission at which they are” bleedin’ ‘opeless”.
When pseudoscience is the guiding philosophy, mission failure is a self fulfilled prophecy.

Henry Galt
April 12, 2011 12:35 am

Rough eyeball?
50% above, 50% below.
Closest to the button please turn off the siren.

charles nelson
April 12, 2011 12:51 am

The whole global warming ‘stunt’ was predicated on clipped graphs indicating dizzying acceleration of warming. History was re-written, erased and ignored.
This is a textbook example of the methods employed. Well done.

April 12, 2011 1:12 am

That is some impressive spin they have going. Meanwhile I finished my analysis of March and it came out the coldest since 1997, but of course that is the wrong spin for them to focus on. I forget, that was the global temperature that experienced the coldest March in 14 years.
Since the warmists are always telling us that US temperature don’t matter and that we should only focus on the global temperature it can be confusing when they pull that bait and switch and really focus on what they can spin as warming….

Peter Main
April 12, 2011 1:44 am

The ranking of 79th is actually counted from coldest to warmest so I guess that makes March 2011 the 38th warmest out of 117 years.
REPLY: I added the verbiage to read both ways – Anthony

April 12, 2011 2:30 am

I was taught by my parents that lying by omission is just as bad as a bare-faced lie.
When will climate science realise that no believes a word they say any more???

Andy G
April 12, 2011 2:46 am

What is it with everyone trying to fit linear trends to short term highly erratic climate data ?? (no offense to Anthony intented, but that green line is just a distraction.).
The whole middle section is below “trend”, and their really isn’t enough length of data to show any meaningful trend whatsoever. Maybe there is a hint of an irregular long periodic pattern, but thats about as far as as any trend should be imagined.

April 12, 2011 2:54 am

I think you’re misinterpreting the rank 79. It means 78 years out of the 117 were cooler. It was the 38th warmest.
If you look at 1910, it has rank 117.

Cassandra King
April 12, 2011 2:55 am

Spin mode at NCDC? It certainly looks like the guys have been making the best of a bad job by cherry picking and highlighting those odds an sods of data that could at a stretch be interpreted in the ‘correct’ way. The ethos seems to be ‘what can we get away with?’
“NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment”
Perhaps a correction/adjustment is needed to that sentence.
‘NOAA’s mission is to misunderstand and misrepresent changes in the earths environment in order to peddle a fraud’

April 12, 2011 3:22 am

I understand that these divisional ranks are more determined by how this year ranks from 1895 to 2011 and not their actual temperature, but it tends to skew the data on their maps.
For instance, they have areas near normal that should be listed as below-average (northwestern Minnesota 3-5 degrees below average). Areas “below average” (eastern North Dakota) that were well below average (5 to 8 degrees). Not a very good approach IMHO.

April 12, 2011 3:24 am

Where would the green “trend” line be if they had started it in March 1910 instead of 1895?

April 12, 2011 3:33 am

Shouldn’t that read:
March 2011 was the 79th coldest out of 117 years (making it the 39th warmest)
or am I wrong?

April 12, 2011 4:01 am

One big problem with that timeframe is that it contains only slightly above 3 PDOs.
If it had 4 PDOs contained, it would be a lot more informative, as in 1871 – 2011.

Bernd Felsche
April 12, 2011 4:05 am

Eye spots me a 60-year (or thereabouts) cycle…
Cancel that… I’ve just seen the plot of all January data without a misleading trend line and the recent “hump” looks like a recovery from the cooling of the late 1970’s; when we were supposed to have that ice age; real soon now.
Interesting to plot just the first century of measurement:
January 1895 – 1995 Trend = -0.03 degF / Decade
Then subsequently:
January 1995 – 2011 Trend = -0.98 degF / Decade
Didn’t somebody say that it was warming? 😉

Steve C
April 12, 2011 4:10 am

” … 79th warmest out of 117 years … ” -> Not news
” … OMG 1.4 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average … ” -> News

Theo Goodwin
April 12, 2011 4:11 am

Yep, “bleedin’ ‘opeless.” Also, factually incorrect. Florida and Georgia were below normal during March. Things are really bad when meteorologists will hide the graph and spin the facts.

April 12, 2011 4:19 am

“U.N. Goal of Limiting Global Warming Is Nearly Impossible, Researchers Say
Sciencemag 8 April 2011

Philip Madams
April 12, 2011 4:32 am

If you look at the last 20 years you can see that the temperature hasn’t changed a bit
, again from the same NCDC site.

April 12, 2011 4:48 am

Don’t draw trend lines when it is not remotely significant. I know it is beside point but a trend lines that disappears complety if the first ten per cent of date is disregarded (or the ten last) is not significant. Don’t draw it!

April 12, 2011 4:49 am

Well, at least the past temperatures haven’t been adjusted downward like some other climate scientist does.

April 12, 2011 4:51 am

“Drought conditions continued to intensify across much of the nation in March. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the overall footprint of drought did not increase, holding fairly steady at about 24 percent of the country. However, the area covered by the “Severe” and “Intense” drought categories almost doubled, from about 12 percent early in the month, to more than 20 percent at month’s end.”
Talk about alarmist, “Drought conditions continued to intensify across much of the nation” seems pretty scary until you find out in the next sentence “the overall footprint of drought did not increase, holding fairly steady at about 24 percent of the country”. Since when is 24% “much of the nation”?
Personally I prefer NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s temp maps;
1 Month –
as I think they provide a better overall picture, as compared to the state by state view provided by NOAA’s Climatic Data Center.
Also interesting that NOAA’s Climatic Data Center failed to mention that the last 3 month’s appear to have had below average temps:
An array of temperature, precipitation, drought and wind maps from NOAA’s Climatic Data Center, Climate Prediction Center and a number of other sources can be found on WUWT’s new US Weather History Page:

Bob Newhart
April 12, 2011 4:51 am

I’m not quite sure how the border between states can have above normal temperatures on one side of it, and below normal temperatures on the other. It seems to me that there has to be a normal band in between. Further, all above normal temperatures bordering on below normal temperatures would be suspect of the same.
Obvious data quality or methods issues.

April 12, 2011 4:51 am

Why only one trend line across the century? By my eyeball, it looks like a decline in the first half to about mid 1960s and then a slight rise since then. That would be much more accurate a portrayal of the trends.

Steve Keohane
April 12, 2011 5:00 am

Did not read all that crap, got to the precipitation graph showing western Colorado at “normal”, when it is 130% of normal…

John Marshall
April 12, 2011 5:04 am

I suppose that if you concentrate on one year you will get a record temperature.
These people are getting more desperate poor things.

Bob Ramar
April 12, 2011 5:09 am

The folks in Asheville are just trying to protect their jobs. If they told the truth, the government would not need them anymore.

April 12, 2011 6:27 am

The advance of post modern science and the models that predict the apocalypse, If it doesn’t show the end of the world just leave it out.
I’m sure in 100 years our children will look back and laugh at this insane post modern science and the way it corrupted so many.
Everyone always talks about hindsight but as my hindsight tells me and I tell the staff you don’t need hindsight if you do your bloody job correctly in the first place.

ferd berple
April 12, 2011 7:11 am

The data around 1900 shows much greater natural variation than does the data around 2000. This is opposite what is predicted by the models and AGW. AGW models predict that the swings in temperature should become larger, not smaller.
If anything, it looks like the minimum tempratures in the US have increased, while the maximum temperatures have remained the same, giving the impression that there has been a slight increase.
Clearly, if the maximum temperatures are unchanged, then global warming is not what is happening. It looks more like something is causing night time temperatures to increase. The most likely answer is land use changes (forestry, agriculture, irrigation, urbanization).
During the daytime, there is lots of mixing of the atmosphere due to convection due to solar heating, so the thermometers are measuring air temperature. At night this mixing is a lot less. So, it is likely that at night thermometers are affected more by local conditions than they are by air temperature.

Douglas DC
April 12, 2011 7:33 am

Got up this morning to the Cold/hot and scraped the Wet/dry off my windshield…

April 12, 2011 7:35 am

Once our government endorsed the AGW myth, the bureaucrat-scientists at NOAA NCDC and NASA GISS fell in line to give their political bosses exactly what they wanted — “proof” of man-caused global warming. Scientific accuracy took a back seat to politics and job preservation, and data manipulation became the order of the day.
James Hansen and Tom Karl should have been fired long ago for scientific malfeasance.

Elizabeth (not the queen)
April 12, 2011 7:56 am

My God, I hope we don’t get another March like the one in 1910! That would be catastrophic!
In other news, March in northern Alberta was colder than average with April following in suit, well below average. We still have about one foot of snow in the yard yet, more forcasted this week, and daily high and low temperatures averaging about 10 degrees C below normal (we have had a few daytime highs hit the average, thank goodness we are closer to the sun now). Three weeks ago we re-stocked our wood pile and are now perilously close to running out again. I understand it could be a few more months before we see much normal spring weather.

Lady Life Grows
April 12, 2011 8:21 am

Tenuc says:
April 12, 2011 at 2:30 am
When will climate science realise that no believes a word they say any more???
Alas, Tenuc, this is a select forum. We know better, but the press are not scientists. My local paper is full of AGW hysteria whenever the subject is mentioned. Most local individuals I speak with believe it, too. Since both warming and more CO2 benefit living things, it is truly important to enlighten as many people as we can.
Esther Cook

Tony K
April 12, 2011 8:51 am

Don’t care too much about statistics and rankings, but looking at the graph it’s about have below and have above norm for 117 years …. so where’s the hype about catastrophic run away warming ??

April 12, 2011 9:19 am

That pattern is a clear representation of CO2 trapping heat in the atmosphere….just as predicted by GCMs./sarc.

An Inquirer
April 12, 2011 10:08 am

Just to promote common understanding:
The NCDC is not adjusted for UHI, so there is a warming bias in NCDC #s because UHI over time will heat up many if not most of the reporting stations.
However, NCDC is homogenized. Homogenization tends to add a warming trend relative to the raw data.
If these statements are incorrect or misleading, please let me know.

DC Cowboy
April 12, 2011 10:32 am

I’m always amazed at the NOAA temps. I live near the Washington, DC area and I can tell you that temperatures where I live were no where near ‘normal’ throughout March. Looking at Accuweather, which shows the ‘average’ high and low for each date, the DC area was routinely 7-10F or more below the average virtually every day this past month.

April 12, 2011 12:03 pm

umm, didn’t Dr, Hansen predict the U.S. would warm up 2-4 deg by now?

April 12, 2011 12:16 pm

And if you add the error on those monthly temperature average, there won’t be any increase of decrease of temperature over the whole record.

Common Sense
April 12, 2011 12:18 pm

We’ve had fairly pleasant temps this winter in the Denver area thanks to La Nina. However, it’s been the driest (and windiest) I can remember. The mountains have received tons of snow, but the plains got almost nothing.
We’ve started yard cleanup a month early and it was so dry that when my son mowed the remains, clouds of dust blew up. My husband is turning on the sprinkler system today.
We usually have many FEET of snow in March which doesn’t all melt in shady areas until sometime in April.
To make it even worse, the fire season also started early with many fires in the foothills and on the plains in the past several weeks.
The last I heard, La Nina was supposed to taper off mid-May. I certainly hope so, otherwise we’re looking at fire seasons like 1996, 2000, and 2002. The big fires in those years – Buffalo Creek, Hi-Meadow, and Hayman, all occurred during the end of May and beginning of June.

April 12, 2011 12:25 pm

An Inquirer says:
April 12, 2011 at 10:08 am
NCDC data is Homogenized and Pasteurized.

April 12, 2011 1:15 pm

Truly a frightening situation. In order to find a month that was below the long-term average you have to go all the way back to … February.

April 12, 2011 1:36 pm

March 2011 ranks 79th coolest (38th warmest) out of 117 years, at 43.95 degrees F with March 1910 being the warmest at 50.55 degrees F.

So the short explanation is that it was normal.

Ben Hillicoss
April 12, 2011 3:38 pm

Anthony, in your final graph (that they excluded) I don’t trust any of the “warming” after about the 1980s so the so called increasing trend, in my humble opinion(IMHO), is steaming piles of fecal matter(SPoFM).

Travis S.
April 12, 2011 6:23 pm

Quote: “To read this report, one might conclude that at 1.4 degrees F above the long-term (1901-2000) average, things are looking really bad for US temperatures…that is, until you look at the March temperature records of the past which aren’t part of this report. ”
One MIGHT conclude that…unless they looked at the actual state of the climate report and not just the press release. The actual NCDC state of the climate report is found by clicking the link in the left margin that reads “NCDC March 2011 analysis.” It clearly states:
“On a national scale, March 2011 ranked as the 39th warmest and 34th wettest March in the 1895-2011 record.”
Granted, while this statement is in the first paragraph (below the box explaining the new normal period soon to be implemented), it is not the first sentence, which will undoubtedly lead some here to demand that the fact that it’s not the first sentence shows that NOAA is trying to hide some “inconvenient truth” about global cooling. Of course, if they WERE, they wouldn’t have buried below a statement about the 7th largest snow extent in the satellite era.

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