Record March heat: Mark Johnson tells us if this current heat wave is unprecedented

CLEVELAND - March 2012 is feeling a lot more like June here in Northern Ohio. In fact, based on the last week of temperatures, we seem to have skipped spring and moved right into summer. This warm spell also has some of you a bit concerned. Are these temperatures out of the ordinary? Have we had warm spells like this before?

Let's take the first question. We have set a few record highs over the last couple of days. That means, for this date in March, we've never been warmer (in our roughly 125 years history of record keeping). Since temperatures average in the 40s this time of year, these temperatures are out of the ordinary.

But are these temperatures unprecedented? Have we had warm spells like this before? The answer to that is yes... many times. Lets look at temperatures from the official Global Historic Climate Record (GHCN). The closest station to Cleveland is the Oberlin (Lorain County) thermometer. Take a look at the graph here. If we isolate just the Month of March since 1890 and just the days above 70 degrees during the month of March, we get this.

As you can see in the graph, March has had MANY warm days above 70 degrees through out our history. Notice the early 1900s. We actually saw temperatures hit 88 degrees back in 1907. In 1910, northern Ohio experienced 8 days above 70 degrees during March. In 1945, 10 days, a full 1/3 of the month measured 70 degrees or higher.  The red trend line also shows that March temperatures above 70 degrees have not increased in the last 100-plus years.

Cleveland records also show lots of historical March warmth. On March 5th, 1983, temperatures in Cleveland soared to 81 degrees. On March 22, 1938, Cleveland's temperature rose to 83 degrees, as it did on March 2, 1910, and March 25, 1945.  Record high temperatures for Greater Cleveland are all 80 degrees or higher nine out of the last 10 days of the month.

In Akron and Canton, the same is true. Record highs for these two cities are all above 70 degrees for all but the first two days of the month. What's more: Akron and Canton saw record highs at 80 degrees or higher back in March of 1910. (80 degreesF, 80F, & 82F), 1938 (81F), 1945 (81F) & 1986 (81F) & 1998 (80F).

As for the warmest March's ever,  March 1946 is #1 in Greater Cleveland, Akron & Canton with an average temperature of 49.5 degreesF in Cleveland; 49 degrees for Akron/Canton.  The average temperature of March 2012 is currently about 48 degreesF so far. It is on pace for a top 5 finish in the warm weather reocrd books.

So enjoy the warmth. It has happened before and, my hunch is, it will happen again somewhere down the road...(h/t to Steven Goddard)

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