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March 2017 Snaps 20-Month Streak of Above Average Temperatures

SnappedThe mild conditions that made February 2017 the warmest on record continued at the onset of March as the high reached 70° on 3/1.  That would be the mildest reading of the month.  Through March 10 temperatures were three degrees above average, but then the next three weeks were six degrees below average, resulting in the entire month being 3.3 degrees colder than average - putting an end to New York's record streak of twenty months in a row with above average temperatures.  March was also colder than February, which, in the years since 1900, had happened only twice before (in 1984 and 1960).  And March's average low was colder than that of February, January or December.

 

March 2017 NYC Weather

 

ADDITIONAL HIGHLIGHTS

  • True winter-like conditions were experienced during a six-day stretch from March 11-16, when temperatures were fifteen degrees below average and a snow and sleet storm snarled the City on 3/14.  7.6" accumulated, but most northern and western suburbs, which didn't have sleet, were buried by 15" to 24".  (If the 1.97" in liquid precipitation that was measured at Central Park had been all snow, about 20" would have piled up.)  The day after the storm the high was just 26°, which was 24 degrees below average.

 

Phalanx of snowplows

 

  • The month had five days with highs of 32° or colder, which was more than December (two), January (three) or February (one), as was the number of days with lows in the teens.  The low of 14° on 3/5 tied 1/10 as the coldest reading of the winter.
  • After a a two-week period (March 10-23) that saw below average temperatures on all but one day (and averaging nine degrees below average), the rest of the month was mostly uneventful.
  • The last week of the month received half of the month's 5.25" of precipitation, with all but one day reporting measurable rain.  This was the wettest March in six years.
  • In a reverse of the time-worn saying, March came in like a lamb rather than a lion (70°), which is how it went out as an all-day rain brought 1.51" along with very chilly temperatures (high/low of 43°/37°).

 

Roaring lion

 

  • Finally, this was the fourth of the past five Marches to be significantly colder than average.  The March that wasn't colder than average, in 2016, was the fourth mildest on record.

 

March Weather 2013-2017

 

 

 

 


Days With Desert-Like Humidty

Weather_hot_sun

 

In April of 2016 New York experienced eleven days in a row with clear or sunny skies (4/12-22).  In addition to this abundance of blue skies, the streak was also characterized by extremely low humidity.  While typical late afternoon humidity levels in April are generally between 45% and 50%, during these eleven days it was mostly between 15% and 20%.  And at 5 PM on 4/20 it fell to 9%.  Since 2000, only one other day has had a humidity level that was lower - March 31, 2007, which reported 6% humidity late in the afternoon.  April 2016's streak of arid days was the inspiration for this post, which looks at hourly and monthly relative humidity reported in Central Park since 2000, with a focus on extremely low levels, which for the purposes of this analysis is 25% or lower.          

 

  • Since 2000 5% of the days have had at least one hour with a relative humidity of 25% or lower (about 19 days/year).  The number of such days ranged from six in 2000 to 32 in 2010.  When I began this project I guessed that January and February might have the most days with the lowest humidity, but it turns out that two-thirds of the these days occurred in March or April.

 

Humidity Bar Chart

 

  • February, March and April have the lowest humidity, while September has the highest (followed closely by June).
  • Not only were the two years with the lowest average humidity consecutive (2015, 2014), so were the years with highest average humidity (2003, 2004).  And while the year with lowest humidity had significantly lower than average precipitation, the second driest was well above average.  In fact, the total precipitation for the year with the highest humidity was very similar to this second driest year (58.56" vs. 57.79").

 

Dust

 

  • During a typical day, the lowest and highest humidity levels occur about nine hours apart, with the highest occurring around daybreak (averaging 72%), and lowest levels during mid-afternoon, averaging in the mid-50s.

 

HumidityMonthly

 

  • There have been nearly 40 days with at least one hour of humidity at 15% or lower (thru the first week of April 2021).  All were in March or April, until 2018 when the humidity fell below 15% twice in May and once in November.  The lowest humidity to occur in the other months has been 16%, and it's happened on four dates: Feb. 26, 2014; May 3 and May 13 in 2007, and Sept. 11, 2001.
  • The months with the least and most precipitation don't always have corresponding low and high average humidity.  For example, the most humid October and February had only 1.18" and 1.66" of precipitation, respectively.  The months with the least humidity don't have outliers quite that extreme, but the driest June and January had more than four inches of precipitation, which is close to average.
  • In this century, months in the years 2000-2004 tended to have the highest average humidity while those with the lowest were clustered in the years since 2010.

 

Chart - lowest humidity


  



 

   

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When April Isn't Much Warmer Than March

Two.arrows.pointingateachother

 

The month of April is typically 10.5 degrees milder than the month of March.  April 2020, however, was just 2.4 degrees milder, making its average temper the third closest to March of any April (going back to 1869).  The closest April came to March was in 1946 when April was 0.8 degrees milder than March.  The chart below lists the six Aprils that were closest to March's average temperature.

 

Chart - closest april-march temp

And although April 2020 wasn't chillier than March, it had no days in the 70s while March had three (making this the first April since 1940 not to have any readings of 70° or warmer).

 


 

 

 

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March 2016 - New York City's Fourth Mildest, Sixth Driest

March-2016-calendar

 

After two unusually cold Marches in 2014 and 2015, this year's was at the other end of the temperature spectrum, finishing as the forth mildest and sixth driest on record.  It joined two other recent Marches in the top 10, from 2012 and 2010.  The month was 6.4 degrees above average, with five days in the 70s and eight in the 60s; ten days (from 3/10 onward) had mean temperatures that were 10 degrees or more above average.  Below is a quick analysis of the ten mildest Marches.

 

  • 2016 knocked March 1973 out of the top 10
  • Only three of the top 10 had any measurable snow and all had less than an inch.  This year's 0.9", which fell on two separate occasions, made this the "snowiest" of the mildest Marches.
  • March 2016 also stood out among the others because it had five days in a row with lows of 32° or colder.  And then a few days later, on March 9, the temperature rose to 77° - the earliest date for a reading this warm (followed by a high of 79° the next day).  
  • Three Marches had a day or two in the 80s.  However, one March, 2000, had no days in the 70s or 80s.
  • Two of the top 10 were very dry - 2012 (0.96") and 2016 (1.17") while two were very wet - 2010 (10.69") and 1977. (7.41").
  • Although March 1946 is the mildest overall, March 2012 had the mildest average low.
  • March 1979 had the coldest reading of the ten mildest, a low of 20°.

 March2016WeatherRecap

 

Tulip.tree

 

 

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The Freakish Snow & Cold of March 1956, 1958, and 1967

Crocuses.snowcovered

 

Although many winters have a significant snowfall and a cold snap in March, it often happens in the first two weeks of the month, and is usually limited to one snow event and a few days of cold weather.  This post, however, looks at three years that fell within a twelve-year period in the middle of the 20th century that experienced freakish snow and cold in the second half of the month. 

 

1956 (March 12 - April 8)

During this four-week period 25" of snow fell and temperatures were 6.5 degrees below average.  There were snowfalls of 6.7" and 11.6" that occurred two days apart, on March 16-17 and March 18-19, and then a 4.2" snowfall occurred on April 8 (as well as two smaller snowfalls under two inches).  Up until these four wintry weeks just eight inches of snow had fallen for the entire winter.

 

Nyc-blizzard-of-1956-albert eisenstaedt
 

1958 (March 14-21)

On March 14 there was a snowfall of 4.1" followed a week later (March 20-21) by a nor'easter that dumped 11.8" of wet snow.  (This storm paralyzed an area from Maryland, eastern Pennsylvania and much of New Jersey with 20-40 inches.)  And while temperatures in NYC were colder than average during both snowfalls, temperatures much of the time were above freezing.  This ended up being the snowiest month of the winter.

 

March1958snowstorm 

 

1967 (March 15-23)

During this nine-day period 15.4" of snow fell from three storms, and temperatures were 15 degrees below average.  On the 18th, the high/low was only 20°/10°, which was 27 degrees below average.  Then, on the morning of the 19th the low fell to 8° above zero, the latest date on record for a single-digit reading.  From late afternoon on the 15th until noon on the 20th the temperature was 32° or colder.  This brutal cold was followed by a 10" snowfall on March 22.

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Warming Trend: A Decade-by-Decade Analysis

Women-Ice-Skating-by-J.R.-Taylor

 

Monthly temperatures for New York (Central Park) go back to 1869.  With this century-and-a-half treasure trove of data in front of me, I calculated each decades' monthly temperatures.  As I immersed myself in the data, a story emerged - New York was noticeably cooler before 1930, and every month's coldest decade occurred in that period.  A second story was that the decade of the 2010s became the warmest decade for eight months (April thru October, and December).  Other findings:

 

  • Comparing pre-1930 decades with 1930 onward shows that March has warmed the most (+3.5 degrees), followed by February (+3.2).  The least warming has occurred in September (+1.4 degrees) and June (+1.5).
  • The biggest difference in temperature between a month's coldest and warmest decade has occurred with February and March.  In the 1880s March's mean temperature was 35.4° degrees while it was 42.9° in the 1980s, a warm up of 7.5 degrees.  In February the pre- and post- temperatures were 29.4° and 36.3°.
  • While March in the years between 1930 and 1999 was 3.5 degrees warmer than the six decades before 1930, in the 21st century it has been 4.5 degrees warmer.  June, July and October were just 0.2 degrees warmer than their respective months in the 1930-1999 period.
  • Until the 2010s the warmest decade for September and October was the 1940s.
  • In the first two decades of the 20th century February was colder than January by a significant margin (29.9° vs 32.3°).
  • Worldwide, the first decade of the 21st century has been the warmest on record, but New York's warmest decade was the 1990s. (However, the 2000s had NYC's mildest Aprils and Novembers.)  

 

COLDEST & WARMEST DECADES BY MONTH
         
  Coldest Warmest
    Mean   Mean
  Decade Temp Decade Temp
January 1880-89 28.7 1990-99 34.8
February 1900-09 29.4 1990-99 36.3
March 1880-89 35.4 1980-89 42.9
April 1870-79 48.1 2010-19 54.2
May 1870-79 60.1 2010-19 64.3
June 1910-19 69.0 2010-19 72.2
July 1880-89 74.6 2010-19 78.8
August 1880-89 72.0 2010-19 76.4
September 1870-79 65.4 2010-19 70.5
October 1890-99 55.5 2010-19 59.2
November 1870-79 42.0 2000-09 48.6
December 1870-79 32.8 2010-19 39.8
Source: NOAA Local Climatological Data

 

TEMPERATURE TRENDS OVER THREE PERIODS
         
  Mean Temperature Degrees Diff
  Before     2000-2019 vs
  1930 1930-1999 2000-2019 Before 1930
January 31.0 32.6 33.0 2.0
February 30.9 33.9 35.6 4.7
March 38.3 41.5 42.7 4.4
April 49.5 52.1 54.0 4.5
May 60.7 62.6 63.2 2.5
June  70.1 71.6 71.8 1.7
July 75.2 76.9 77.4 2.2
August 73.3 75.3 76.1 2.8
September 67.0 68.3 69.7 2.7
October 56.0 57.8 58.2 2.2
November 44.0 47.3 47.7 3.7
December 34.4 36.6 38.8 4.2
FULL YEAR 52.6 54.8 55.7 3.1
         

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When March is Colder Than December

Anomaly

 

Typically, the month of December is five degrees colder than March, but about every five years (based on records since 1960) March is colder.  2014 was one of these years, as March, the coldest in 30 years, was three degrees colder than December.  Of the 34 years (since 1869) in which March was colder than December, the most extreme was in 2015 when it was 12.7 degrees colder (that December was the mildest on record).  Here are some other tidbits ...

 

  • Of the years in which March has been colder than December, both months had below average temperatures in five of them.  The last time this happened was in 1916.  And in 1982 and 2006, despite March being colder than December, both months were milder than average.
  • The most consecutive years in which December was colder than March is fourteen, from 1942 thru 1955.  However, there have never been more than two consecutive years in which March was colder than December.  (UPDATE: This is no longer the case as March 2015 was also colder than the December preceding it.)  Finally, in the last two decades of the nineteenth century, March was colder than December in half of the years. 
  • Interestingly, one of the coldest Marches on record, in 1960, wasn't colder than that year's December, which was also much below average.

 

LAST 10 YEARS WHEN MARCH
WAS COLDER THAN DECEMBER
       
  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
Average* 42.5 37.5 5.0
       2015     38.1     50.8         -12.7
2014 37.7 40.5 -2.8
2011 42.3 43.3 -1.0
2006 43.1 43.6 -0.5
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5
1996 38.9 41.3 -2.4
1994 40.7 42.2 -1.5
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1982 42.0 42.8 -0.8
1971 40.1 40.8 -0.7
*1980-2010      
       
       
GREATEST TEMP DIFFERENCE
(MARCH V DECEMBER)
       
  Mean Temp Difference
  March Dec. March v Dec.
2015 38.1 50.8 -12.7
1984 36.7 43.8 -7.1
1891 35.8 42.3 -6.5
1923 36.8 42.0 -5.2
1885 30.6 35.7 -5.1
1911 34.7 39.4 -4.7
1888 30.0 34.7 -4.7
2001 39.6 44.1 -4.5

Weather Analysis: The First 60-Degree+ Reading of the Year

60

 

There are a number of ways to gauge how cold a winter has been: mean temperature; the number of days with sub-freezing highs or single-digit lows; streaks of days with below average temperatures; or a dearth of mild readings.  For instance, after the brutal winter of 2015 New York didn't experience its first 60-degree day until March 26.  That's more than seven weeks later than the average date for this occurrence (Feb. 3) - and the latest date since 1982.  Here are more interesting tidbits about the first reading of 60+:

 

  • In the 19th century (1869-1899) the average date of the first 60+ reading in Central Park was March 8, and then between 1900-1970 the average date moved up to Feb. 23.  Since 1970 the average date has been three weeks earlier.
  • Between 1900-1970 the first 60+ day occurred on March 1 or later in half of the years, but since 1971 it has occurred after March 1 just 20% of the time.
  • Since 1900 the first 60-degree day has occurred on New Year's Day five times: 1919, 1966, 1973, 1979 and 2005.  (In 1966 the year's first 60+ reading followed 1965's last 60+ reading on New Year's Eve.)
  • Looking at all years the latest date for the first 60+ reading was April 15, in 1877.  And nine other years had their first reading in the 60s between April 5 and April 13 (see chart below); the most recent year to have a date that late in 1970 (April 8). 
  • Once every 10 years the first 60+ reading has occurred in the first three days of January, while once every 23 years the first 60 occurred on April 1 or later.
  • In 2007, not only was the first 60-degree reading of the year very early (Jan. 5), it was followed the next day by the year's first high in the 70s (72°), the earliest ever. 
  • In 1997 and 1998 the first 60+ temperature occurred on the same date, a very early Jan. 3.  And 1906 and 1907 had their first 60s on Jan. 4 while 2017's and 2018's  was on Jan. 12 (in 2020 it fell on Jan. 11).  At the other end of the spectrum, 1962 and 1963 both shared March 25 as the date of their first 60.
  • For four years in a row, 2005-2008, the first 60-degree reading occurred in the first nine days of the year.
  • In 1943 the year's first 60-degree temperature, 63°, came just five days after the morning low was 8° below zero.
  • The coldest temperature to occur on the same day as the first reading of 60+ was in the winter of 1957 when an Arctic front knocked the temperature down to 20° after the mercury reached 60° earlier in the day (on Jan. 23).
  • The biggest jump in temperature from the day before the first 60+ reading was 25 degrees, in 1954, when the high jumped from 44° to 69° the next day.  The biggest increase in temperature the day following the first 60+ was 21 degrees, and it happened in 1917, when the high reading the day after rose to 83°.  Lastly, the biggest drop in temperature after the first 60+ was 33 degrees and it happened in three years: 1957 (from 60° to 27°); in 1939 (62° to 29°); and in 1913 (63° to 30°).
  • The date of the first 60+ reading in five years was also the date of the first 70+ reading: in 1987 (March 7); 1969 (March 18); 1964 (March 5); 1963 (March 25) and 1893 (April 1).  Nine other years had their first 70+ reading the day after the first 60+, the last time being in 2007.

 Chart - earliest_latest first 60s


Snowfall Analysis: New York's Snowiest Consecutive Months

Snowplows

 

The snow that piled up in New York during the winter of 2014 made it one of the ten snowiest on record (going back to 1869).  The bulk of the 57 inches fell in January (19.7") and February (28.8").  Their combined total of 48.5" is the second greatest amount of snow to fall in back-to-back months.  Only the winter of 2011 had a combo with more as December picked up 20.1" and January saw 36.0". 

 

Three of the winters found on the chart below had 20" or more of snow for both of the months: Jan/Feb 1978, Jan/Feb 1996 and Dec 2010/Jan 2011.  And three winters make two appearances: 1996, 2010 and 2011.  (If March 2014 sees nine inches or more it will also have two slots on the list.)

 

NEW YORK'S SNOWIEST BACK-TO-BACK MONTHS
(Since 1869)
       
 Months 1st Month 2nd Month Combined
Dec 2010/Jan 2011 20.1" 36.0" 56.1"
Jan/Feb 2014 19.7" 28.8" 48.5"
Jan/Feb 1996 26.1" 21.2" 47.3"
Dec 1947/Jan 1948 29.6" 15.3" 44.9"
Jan/Feb 1978 20.3" 23.0" 43.3"
Jan/Feb 1923 24.5" 18.8" 43.3"
Feb/Mar 1967 23.6" 17.4" 41.0"
Feb/Mar 2011 36.0" 4.8" 40.8"
Dec 1904/Jan 1905 21.6" 18.4" 40.0"
Feb/Mar 1896 9.5" 30.5" 40.0"
Jan/Feb 2010 2.1" 36.9" 39.0"
Feb/Mar 1914 17.4" 21.5" 38.9"
Jan/Feb 1994 12.0" 26.4" 38.4"
Dec/Jan 1996 11.5" 26.1" 37.6"
Dec/Jan 1893 27.0" 10.6" 37.6"
Dec 2003/Jan 2004 19.8" 17.3" 37.1"
       
(Analysis of data from www.NWS.NOAA.gov)

Mild One Day, Snow the Next - A History of Dramatic Change

Playing.golf

 

This post was inspired by an eight-inch snowfall on Feb. 2, 2014 that occurred the day after the high reached 56°.  However, there was an even more drastic one-day change during the winter of 2017 when 9.4" of snow fell on Feb. 9, the day after the high was 62°.  This was the most drastic one-day change in weather conditions since March 16, 2007 when 5.5" of sleet and snow fell the day after a springlike high of 67° was reached.

 

Nyc snowplow
 

Since 1970 there have been twenty-eight instances of an inch or more of snow falling the day after a high of 50° or warmer; however, on only seven of those occasions was the accumulation four inches or more.  In addition to the three occasions mentioned at the beginning of this post, here are the four other dates it has occurred:

  • March 29, 1970 - On Easter Sunday four inches of snow fell the day after a high of 54°.
  • Feb. 2, 2009 - 4.3" of snow fell one day after a high of 53° was reported.
  • Feb. 21, 2001 - A snowfall of 5.8" occurred the day after a high of 52°.
  • Feb. 17, 2018 - A nighttime snowfall of 4.4" came at the end of a week that had three days with highs of 62° and a high of 58° on 2/16.

 

The following two snowstorms occurred the day after the high temperature was above average, but below 50°; however, they warrant mention because of the large amount of snow that fell:

  • Jan 21, 2014 - 11.0" fell the day after a high of 46° degrees was reached.
  • April 6, 1982 - 9.6" fell the day after the temperature topped out at 48°.   

 

Finally, a shout-out to the 1.2" of snow that fell on April 9, 2000 because it came the day after a high of 71°.

 

Snow in  central park - wabc

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