Climatology 101: March 2016 caps off El Niño’s no-show

El Niño continued its disappointing trend across southern Arizona in March.

Tucson officially picked up 0.11″ rain last month, marking the 18th driest March on record. It comes as no surprise that high pressure dominated across the southwest, shoving the jet stream (and any influence from El Niño) well north.

Thanks to a storm track north of Arizona, Tucson recorded an average March temperature of 65.0°. Quick perusal at the record books shows March 2016 as the 4th warmest dating back to 1894.

Below is the complete climate report compiled by the fine men & women at the National Weather Service in Tucson:

Very warm and dry March’s are becoming common in Tucson. 2016 marks the 4th straight March that the average temperature ranked in the top 10 warmest. Rainfall recorded at the airport was below normal for the 12th straight March.
The month started off very warm with near record highs occurring on the 1st, 3rd and 4th. A Pacific storm system bought much cooler temperatures and showers to the area on the 7th & 8th. After a brief warm-up into the 80s a dry weather system cooled temperatures into the 70s on the 12th, 13th & 14th. Strong high pressure aloft built over the desert southwest for the next week, culminating in a record high temperature being set on the 21st (91°, old record 90° from 2001). High temperatures cooled into the 70s on the 23rd & 24th as another dry storm system passed by to the north. After four days with highs in the 80s, the month ended on a pleasant note with the last three days of the month recording highs in the 60s. These cooler temperatures were associated with a slow moving weather system that brought isolated sprinkles to the area along with breezy to windy conditions.
Temperature extremes for the month ranged from a high of 91° on the 21st to a low of 40° on the 9th & 31st. The monthly average temperature of 65° is almost five degrees above normal and ranks as the 4th warmest March on record. Hey, at least it was cooler than last March which ranks as the 2nd warmest March on record. Over 40% of the daily highs were above normal by 10° or more.
March 2016 daily high temperature departure from normal March 2016 daily low temperature departure from normal
The images above show daily departure from (1981-2010) normals. Below normal is blue and above normal is red.
Click on images above for larger view
Rainfall amounts across the metro area for the month, using several sources like the Pima County Regional Flood Control District gages and CoCoRaHS, were mostly below a quarter of an inch, with isolated spots up to 0.40″. The International airport, which is the official recording location for Tucson, recorded a paltry 0.11″ which ranks as the 18th driest March on record. This is also the twelfth straight March that the airport has recorded below normal rainfall.
March 2016 stats
Average high temperature
+ 6.1°
Average low temperature
+ 3.7°
Average temperature
+ 4.9°
– 0.62″

The first quarter of 2016 goes into the record books as the 4th warmest on record with an average temperature of 59.5°. 2015 (61.2°) & 2014 (60.8°) rank as the top two warmest 1st quarters on record. On the rainfall side, its been drier than normal with the airport only recording 1.82″ which is almost three-quarters of an inch below normal. This ranks as the 56th driest 1st quarter on record..
2016 stats thru March
Average high temperature
+ 5.2°
Average low temperature
+ 1.5°
Average temperature
+ 3.4°
– 0.71″
2015-16 Water Year rainfall (Oct-Mar)
– 0.22″

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