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March Was Cool, But Winter Was Warmer Than Average

In January, coats and gloves were optional as skaters enjoyed temperatures in the 40s and 50s at New York City's Bryant Park.
Mario Tama
Getty Images
In January, coats and gloves were optional as skaters enjoyed temperatures in the 40s and 50s at New York City's Bryant Park.

How wrong was Punxsutawney Phil when the groundhog said on Feb. 2 that we'd have an early spring?

"The March average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 40.8°F, which was 0.9°F below the 20th century average," NOAA's National Climatic Data Center reports. "This was in stark contrast to temperatures from one year prior when March 2012 was the warmest such month on record for the nation. 2013 marked the coolest March since 2002, when the monthly nationally-averaged temperature was 2.2°F below average."

March also saw the snow cover on the "lower 48" states expand to the 10th largest on record.

But maybe Phil was looking at the big picture, because the data center adds that:

"The U.S. cold season, defined as October–March, was 1.1°F warmer than average, with a nationally-averaged temperature of 40.3°F. A large area of the country had near-average temperatures during the six-month period, while the Southwest, Northwest, and Northeast were warmer than average. Vermont experienced its eighth warmest cold season, with an average temperature 3.6°F above average."

Of course, if you're somewhere today where it's snowing, talk of a warmer-than-usual winter is just ... talk. Here's what the top story right now on The Denver Post's website says:

"Snow is falling in northeastern Colorado and along parts of the Front Range Monday morning. There's a good chance of heavy snow Monday in the northern mountains along the Wyoming border and across the northern foothills, according to the National Weather Service. Parts of northern Colorado, including the mountains and the foothills, are under a Winter Storm Warning and Winter Storm Watch Monday."

The Weather Channel, which insists on naming winter storms, is calling this one Yogi and says "the heavy-snow bull's-eye will focus on southern Wyoming and northern Colorado Monday night into Tuesday, with the potential for additional accumulation all the way into Wednesday."

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Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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