Mar 06

Record Shattering March Heat Wave Surprises Scientists

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Record shattering March heat wave sent people to the beaches in droves

The record shattering March heat wave has come as a surprise even to a majority of scientists. In fact, it’s been so warm in the United States alone this year, especially in March, that national records weren’t just shattered, they were literally baked!

Temperatures in the U.S. for the lower 48 states averaged 8.6 degrees above normal for March alone and an astonishing 6 degrees higher than average for the entire first three months of the year 2012, according to calculations made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That by far exceeds, or shatters in our opinion the existing records.

Some meteorologists who have warned about the effects of global warming have become alarmed at the magnitude of how unusual the year has been in the United States. One climate scientist said the record march heat wave is like the weather equivalent of a baseball player on steroids, with old records being obliterated, like the home run records during the big steroid era in major league baseball.

Record March Heat Wave

National High Temperature records set on regular day in March

National High Temperature records set on regular day in March

According to Jerry Meehl, a climate scientist who specializes in extreme weather at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo:

“Everybody has this uneasy feeling. This is weird. This is not good. It’s a guilty pleasure. You’re out enjoying this nice March weather, but you know it’s not a good thing.It’s not just March.”

“It’s been ongoing for several months,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Ashville, N.C.

Meteorologists claim the direct cause of the record March heatwave and warm start to 2012 were a combination of an unusual confluence of several weather patterns, including La Nina. While individual events can’t be directly blamed on global warming, Couch said this is like one of the extreme weather events that are supposed to get more frequent because of man-made climate change from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

Wheres winter

wheres-winter

wheres winter

March heat wave temperature records set

It’s important to note that this unusual winter heat is mostly a North America phenomenon. Much of the rest of the Northern Hemisphere has been cold, said NOAA meteorologist Martin Hoerling. The first quarter of 2012 broke the January-March record by 1.4 degrees while records typically are broken by just one- or two-tenths of a degree over that time frame. Temperature records in the U.S. date back to 1895.

The atypical heat goes back even further. The U.S. winter of 2010-2011 was slightly cooler than normal and one of the snowiest in recent years, but after that things started heating up quickly, as the summer of 2011 was the second warmest summer ever recorded.

The winter that just ended, which in some places was termed ‘the year without winter’, was the fourth warmest ever recorded. In fact, going back to April 2011, it’s been the hottest 12-month stretch on record, Crouch said. But the month where the warmth turned especially weird was March.

Normally, March averages 42.5 degrees across the country. This year, the average was 51.1, which is closer to the average for April. Only one other time in history, in January 2006, was the country that much hotter than normal for an entire month as a whole.

For the self proclaimed “icebox of America,” International Falls, Minn., they witnessed temperatures in the 70s for five days in March, compared to only three days of below zero temperatures all month.

heat wave map

heat wave map

noaa march map

noaa map

In March, at least 7,775 weather stations across the nation broke daily high temperature records and another 7,517 broke records for night-time heat. Combined, that’s more high temperature records broken in one month than ever before, Crouch said.

“When you look at what’s happened in March this year, it’s beyond unbelievable,” said University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver.

NOAA climate scientist Gabriel Vecchi compared the increase in weather extremes to baseball players on steroids: You can’t say an individual homer is because of steroids, but they are hit more often and the long-held records for home runs fall.

nigeria heat wave led to rain forest losses

nigeria heat wave led to rain forest losses

Record 24 hour temps

Record 24 hour temps

They seem to be falling far more often because of global warming, said NASA top climate scientist James Hansen. In a paper he submitted to the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and posted on a physics research archive, Hansen shows that heat extremes aren’t just increasing but happening far more often than scientists thought.

What used to be a 1-in-400 hot temperature record is now a 1 in 10 occurrence, essentially 40 times more likely, said Hansen. The warmth in March is an ideal illustration of this, said Hansen, who also has become an activist in fighting fossil fuels.

SF Heat Wave March 10 - 18

SF Heat Wave March 10 - 18

Record breaking heat March 2012

Record breaking heat March 2012

Beach

Beach

Beach goers in springtime heat

Beach goers in springtime heat

Weaver, who reviewed the Hansen paper, called it “one of the most stunning examples of evidence of global warming.”

The record March heat wave wasn’t confined to just the U.S. either, as Australia also had it’s own record setting March heatwave:

Perth has had its hottest start to March on record.

Weather Bureau spokesman Neil Bennett said the average temperature so far was 35.4C compared with the monthly average of 29.6C.

The previous highest mean daily maximum from March 1 to 12 was 34.7C set in 1979. Only once this month did Perth’s hottest daily temperature dip below 30C and Sunday was the hottest March day in five years at 41.1C.

“That is really a very hot start indeed but the worst of it is over,” Mr Bennett said.”




Resources:

Washington Post

Hottest Year on Record

Record Breaking Heat Wave March 2012

Record Breaking Heat Wave March 2012

New milestones reached in March 2012 record breaking heat wave

New milestones reached in March 2012 record breaking heat wave

Heat Dome March 2012

Heat Dome March 2012

Temperature reading March 2012 Heat Wave

Temperature reading March 2012 Heat Wave

The record shattering March heat wave that has surprised Scientists comes as no surprise to us. These have been predicted, and will continue to grow, And this is just the tip of the iceberg, as we haven’t even reached 2 degrees Celsius warming yet!

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