Amazing Stats from the March 2012 'Heat Wave'

By Bill Deger, Meteorologist
March 24, 2012; 11:36 AM
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Fisherman line a pier after an unseasonably warm afternoon in the Red Hook section of the borough of Brooklyn on Thursday, March 22, 2012 in New York. (AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

While the warmth may finally be beginning to wane in some areas, the number of ways to express how unusual it was is not.

Thousands of records, some thought to be unbreakable, have fallen over the past couple of weeks from the High Plains to the East Coast, and north into Canada.

The unusual warmth has many questioning why, and wondering if this could end up being the new normal. From climate change to ocean temperatures to debris from last year's tsunami, Jillian MacMath has more on the theories offered up by AccuWeather.com's meteorologists.

Though the lasting legacy of the warm spell could end up being one of the above, in the short term, meteorologists and climatologists alike are still struggling to digest the staggering nature of the records that have been broken over the past dozen or so days.

AccuWeather.com Facebook fan Doug T. submitted this photo of apricot trees in bloom on Old Mission Peninsula just east of Traverse City, Mich. Doug adds this blooming is occurring at least six weeks earlier than normal.

The 'Heat Wave' of March 2012, By the Numbers

9 The number of consecutive days that Chicago, Ill., has broken a record high, from March 14 to March 22. Eight of those days saw the mercury climb above 80 degrees, which is normal for mid-June.

93 The temperature swing that occurred over the course of just nine days in International Falls, Minn., from a low of minus 14 degrees on March 9, to a high of 79 degrees on March 18. Also, 10 straight days of new record highs (March 13 to March 22).

26 The number of inches of snow that melted over the course of just seven days in Caribou, Maine, from March 15 to March 22, thanks to the unusual warmth. Also, 18 inches of snow was still on the ground when the first record high fell on March 18 (64 degrees).

32 The gap, in degrees, between the old and new record high on March 21 in Marquette, Mich. The new record high was 81 degrees, obliterating the old record of 49 degrees. The margin of defeat was so great that the low temperature that day was even higher than the old record high temperature.

This is snow depth across the continental U.S. and southern Canada as of March 22. Outside of a few higher elevations, there is no snow on the ground in the country east of the Continental Divide. (NOAA/NOHRSC)

21.2 The temperature departure (in degrees fahrenheit) from normal for the month of March thus far in Winnipeg, Canada. This occurred despite temperatures having dropped below zero for four days early in the month.

1921 The last year it was above 80 degrees in Boston before March 28 of any given calendar year. In reaching 83 degrees on March 22, this came to fruition for the first time since March 21, 1921.

86 The new all-time record high temperature for March in Detroit, Mich., set on March 22. In fact, a new all-time high temperature was set two days in a row, with the mercury first climbing to 84 degrees on March 21.

60 The average low temperature in Chicago, Ill., from March 17 to March 22 of this year. Such low temperatures, about 30 degrees above normal, are more typical for mid-June.

AccuWeather.com Facebook fan Jason S. submitted this photo of beachgoers on Hampton Beach, N.H., on March 22. "I've never seen a scene like this in March in all my 37 years," added Jason.

New All-Time Record High Temperatures for March

Additionally, more than a dozen major cities established new all-time record highs for the month of March. This is especially impressive considering all of these records were set more than a week from the end of the month, which is usually the warmest period.

City New Record High (Date) Old Record High (Date)
Detroit, Mich. 86 (3/22) 82 (3/28/1945)
Lansing, Mich. 86 (3/21) 82 (3/24/1910)
Toledo, Ohio 85 (3/21, 3/22) 83 (3/24/1910)
Bangor, Maine 84 (3/22) 79 (3/29/1946)
Milwaukee, Wis. 84 (3/21) 82 (3/29/1986, 3/31/1986)
Cleveland, Ohio 83 (3/20-3/22) - tie 83 (3/24/1910, 3/25/1945)
Madison, Wis. 83 (3/21) 82 (3/29/1986, 3/31/1981)
Buffalo, N.Y. 82 (3/21) 81 (3/26/1945)
London, Ontario 81 (3/22) 77 (3/30/1998)
Marquette, Mich. 81 (3/21) 71 (3/8/2000)
Ottawa, Ontario 81 (3/21) 80 (3/29/1946)
International Falls, Minn. 79 (3/18) 73 (3/31/1963)
Toronto, Ontario 79 (3/22) 78 (3/28/1945)
Montreal, Quebec 78 (3/21) - tie 78 (3/28/1945)
Caribou, Maine 75 (3/21) 73 (3/30/1962)
Winnipeg, Manitoba 75 (3/19) 74 (3/27/1946)
Quebec City, Quebec 65 (3/21) 64 (3/30/1962)

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