Alaska is record-warm for year-to-date
The average March temperatures across the lower 48 states was 6 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century norm — which is a huge anomaly — but in the modern global warming era, only enough to make it the fourth-warmest March on record. According to NOAA’s monthly climate update, compiled by the National Centers for Environmental Information, every state reported above average temperatures for the month, but none was record-warm. See the NOAA monthly climate report here.
The warmest readings for the month were reported from the Northern Rockies into the Northern Plains and across the Northeast. Northern California, parts of Oregon and some small areas in northern Colorado reported near-average March temperatures.
For the first three months of 2016, NOAA reports that 32 states across West, Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast were much warmer than average. The year-to-date is the warmest since 2012, which was marked by a sizzling spring and ferocious summer heatwaves. Overall, it was the third-warmest January-March period for the lower 48 states.
Alaska has been record warm for the year-to-date, with the temperature running 11.9 degrees above average for the first three months of 2016. Record readings came from across Alaska, including Barrow, Bethel, Homer, Juneau and King Salmon. For the first time in the modern era of record-keeping, temperatures in southeaster Alaska reached 70 degrees in March.
March brought some improvement in drought conditions across parts of the Northwest and Northern California, but 90 percent of California is experiencing drought, with the statewide snowpack still below average.
Drought conditions worsened in the Southwest, where Arizona and New Mexico were very dry, as well as parts of the Southern and Central Plains. Short-term drought created ideal wildfire conditions along the Oklahoma and Kansas border, where a grassland fire charred more than 400,000 acres, the largest wildfire on record in Kansas.