March was madness and it had nothing to do with basketball or brackets.
Instead the balmy breezes more familiar to summer came early and shattered records for the warmest March since records started being kept in 1931.
“It smashed the old record,” said Pete Boulay, Department of Natural Resources climatologist at the Minnesota Climatology Office at the University of Minnesota. “It is definitely the warmest.”
The old record stood since 1946 with an average temperature of 36.4 degrees. In preliminary results for this March, Boulay said temperatures were 14 degrees above normal.
“It was like a start to summer,” Boulay said. “It was a preview of summer. Our weather patterns were even summer-like.”
Chilly Alberta clippers were replaced by steering patterns from the south or west with warm air with dew points in the 60s. The warm weather stretch, with records falling nearly every day, was of such an extreme, Boulay said to match its continuous nature means going back to the Dust Bowl month of July 1936 or February of 1981, which produced similar warm spells.
“It was an amazing March,” Boulay said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) described the smashing of daily high temperatures east of the Rocky Mountains in March as “Meteorological March Madness.”
NOAA’s National Climate Data Center reported more than 7,000 daily record high temperatures were broken during the U.S. from March 1-27.
In Brainerd, March rewrote the records for high temperatures with days listed among the hottest on record going back to 1899.
The largely snowless winter is also putting the winter of 2012 on the map with consecutive days lining up one behind the other in January and March to litter the record book for the lowest daily snowfall depth going back to 1908.
Brainerd received 23.6 inches of snow this past winter. Brainerd’s seasonal snowfall average is more like 40-50 inches.
While it seems snow is a long-distant memory this year, Boulay said it could be too early to count snow out entirely. On average, the last day for snowfall is April 2. But there have been trace amounts in May.
Snowfall isn’t unheard of in April, but unlikely past the first half of the month.
“I wouldn’t tempt fate though,” Boulay said, noting 22.8 inches of snow fell in Brainerd in April 2008.
Four inches of snow fell in the second half of April in 2008. But it takes going back to 1961 to beat the record books of 9 inches of snow in the second half of April. Since the 1950s, there have been 37 years of no snowfall after April rounds its way to the second half of the month. No snow fell in April of 2010.
This winter is likely to take its place in the record books as one of the lowest snowfall totals in history. It just missed the lead position by a few flakes. The winter with the lowest snowfall on record in Brainerd is 22.7 inches in 2002-2003. The National Weather Service in Duluth reports a snowfall total in Brainerd of 23.6 inches for the winter of 2011-2012.
This year spring is three to four weeks ahead of normal. But Boulay said one year doesn’t indicate what next year may bring. Last year spring was delayed and the cool summer followed.
As temperatures dropped back to more normal levels of late or even below average, Boulay said it’s still too early to plant safely even if spring seems well advanced.