Jeff Masters Weather Blog

Earth’s 2nd-warmest March on record » Yale Climate Connections

March 2023 was Earth’s second-warmest March since global record-keeping began in 1850. It was 1.24 degree Celsius (2.23°F) above the 20th-century average, NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information reported on April 13. NASA and the European Copernicus Climate Change Service also rated March 2023 as the second warmest March on record. The only warmer March in all three databases was 2016, near the end of the record-strong 2014-16 El Niño event. Minor differences in the agencies’ rankings can result from the different ways they treat data-sparse regions such as the Arctic. Note that new research by NOAA has now extended the global temperature record back to 1850 (an extra 30 years); the March 2023 report is just the third one that uses this new data set. The new data set has also improved its handling of missing data regions like the Arctic.

Land areas had their second-warmest March on record in 2023, with global ocean temperatures the third-warmest, according to NOAA. Asia had its second-warmest March; South America and Africa had their fourth-warmest March; Europe had its tenth-warmest March; Oceania had its 17th-warmest March; and North America had a warmer-than-average March that did not rank among the 20 warmest on record.

The year-to-date period of January-March is the fourth warmest on record, and according to NOAA’s latest Global Annual Temperature Rankings Outlook, “it is virtually certain that 2023 will be a top 10 year.” This outlook does not explicitly take into account the anticipated arrival of El Niño later this year (see below), which would make record or near-record global warmth in 2023 and 2024 even more likely.

The contiguous U.S. experienced its 45th-warmest March on record. Florida had a top-10 warmest March, while Oregon, California, Nevada, North Dakota, and Idaho had a top-10 coldest March.

A map of the globe showing land and water temperatures in March 2023. Most of the planet, aside from the Western U.S. and an area southwest of Chile were warmer than average.
Figure 1. Departure of temperature from average for March 2023, the second-warmest March for the globe since record keeping began in 1880. Record warm temperatures covered 4% of the world’s surface, and no areas experienced record cold. (Image credit: NOAA/NCEI)

NOAA issues an El Niño watch

NOAA issued an El Niño Watch in its April monthly discussion of the state of the El Niño/Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, released on April 13. Neutral conditions are expected to persist through the Northern Hemisphere spring, with a 62% chance of a transition to El Niño during the May-June-July period. El Niño is then expected to continue through the end of 2023 into 2024.

NOAA’s and Columbia University’s International Research Institute for Climate and Society ENSO forecast for the peak portion of the Atlantic hurricane season (August-September-October) is for a 1% chance of La Niña, a 17% chance of ENSO-neutral, and an 82% chance of El Niño. Most of the El Niño models are predicting a weak to moderate strength El Niño event forming by late summer, with the dynamical model consensus favoring a borderline weak/moderate event for the peak of hurricane season. Toward the end of the year, the odds of a strong El Niño will be as high as 40%, according to the NOAA discussion. However, predicting the exact timing of any potential switch to El Niño later this year is difficult, as we are currently in the “spring predictability barrier,” when forecasts of ENSO behavior are at their toughest.

Arctic sea ice: sixth-lowest March extent on record

Arctic sea ice extent during March 2023 was the sixth-lowest in the 45-year satellite record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. On March 6, sea ice reached its maximum extent for the year. This was the fifth-lowest maximum extent in the 45-year satellite record. Overall, there is almost no arctic ice over four years old remaining — it now comprises just 3% of the total ice cover. This is the same percentage as in 2022, and contrasts starkly with the late 1980s when 30-35% of the Arctic Ocean’s ice was older than 4 years. 

Antarctic sea ice: lowest on record

Antarctic sea ice extent in March was the lowest on record. Low Antarctic sea ice is concerning since the ice helps buttress land-based ice shelves that can contribute to sea level rise if not stabilized. Melting Antarctic sea ice and land-based ice also affect a key ocean current (see Tweet above).

Notable global heat and cold marks for March 2023

The information below is courtesy of Maximiliano Herrera. Follow him on Twitter: @extremetemps:

– Hottest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: 46.4°C (115.5°F) at Matam, Senegal, Mar. 14;
– Coldest temperature in the Northern Hemisphere: -55.2°C (-67.4°F) at Summit, Greenland, Mar. 28;
– Hottest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: 44.5°C (112.1°F) at Karijini North, Australia, Mar. 16; and
– Coldest temperature in the Southern Hemisphere: -68.1°C (-90.6°F) at Dome Vostok, Antarctica, Mar. 6.

Major weather stations in March: seven all-time heat records, no all-time cold records

Among global stations with a record of at least 40 years, two set, not just tied, an all-time heat record in March, and no stations set an all-time cold record:

Karwar (India) max. 40.2°C, Mar. 4; and
Honavar (india) max 39.4°C, Mar 4.

Three all-time national/territorial cold records set or tied in 2023

As of the end of March 2023, three nations or territories had set or tied an all-time national cold record:

Myanmar: -6.0°C (21.2°F) at Hakha, Jan. 17 (tied);
China: -53.0°C (-63.4°F) at Jintao, Jan. 22; and
Cyprus: -12.8°C (8°F) at Trodos Mt. Station, Feb. 8 (tied).

20 monthly national/territorial heat records and three additional monthly cold records beaten or tied as of the end of March

Twenty nations or territories have set monthly all-time heat records in 2023:

– Jan. (13): Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Cyprus, Nigeria
– Feb. (4): Chile, Taiwan, Pakistan, Cyprus
– Mar. (3): Botswana, Vietnam, Taiwan

In addition to the three all-time cold records listed above, three nations or territories have set a monthly all-time cold record in 2023, for a total of six monthly cold records:

– Feb. (1): Montenegro
– Mar. (2): St. Eustatius, Martinique

Hemispherical and continental temperature records in 2023

– Lowest temperature reliably recorded in January in the Southern Hemisphere: -51.2°C (-60.2°F) at Concordia, Antarctica, Jan. 31.

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