March 2012 Climate Summary - A Record Breaking Month!

Central Indiana
March 2012
Climate Summary
Warmest on record at Indianapolis
48th Wettest on record at Indianapolis
35th Least Snowiest on record at Indianapolis

March 2012 was the warmest March of record in Indianapolis,  a whopping 14.4 degrees above normal. The last time the record warm average temperature for a month was tied occurred when March 1946 equaled the record warm March 1910. The last time a record warm monthly average temperature was set happened at the close of August 1936 during the Heat Wave of 1936. Even more impressive, the average temperature for March 2012 shattered the previous record from March 1910 and 1946 by nearly 5 degrees.

The record warmth of March resulted from an upper level ridge that remained over the Indianapolis area from March 14-22. June like weather prevailed for more than a week. Daily temperatures averaged more than 20 degrees above normal during this period. The 11-day period from March 12-22 was the warmest of any 11-day period so early in the year prior to April 20. At Indianapolis, the temperature made it to 70 degrees or warmer on 14 days, and 80 degrees or warmer on 7 days this month, both of which had never happened on so many days in any previous March on record. Indianapolis made it to 84 degrees on the afternoon of the 21st, the warmest temperature during the month and just missing the all-time record high of 85 degrees set on March 31, 1981.

Because of the warm winter and the sudden onset of extended early summer weather, vegetation sprang to life overnight. Early spring flowers bloomed very quickly and faded in a couple of days. Tulips, lilacs, flowering bushes and trees were in full bloom during the last week of March. Many trees were budding including oaks. The outdoors was typical of early May rather than late March.

The warm temperatures of March were not confined to the Indianapolis area. Much of the Midwest and east coast shared in the summer like weather. To quote what Weather Bureau officials stated in March 1910, "Never since the Weather Bureau was established has there been such an early opening of spring." The U.S. Weather Bureau became the National Weather Service in 1970. Weather records at Indianapolis began in 1871.

It may seem hard to believe after such a warm month, but March did have a chilly stretch early in the month after a strong cold front passes through the region on the 2nd. High temperatures were at or below 40 degrees March 3rd through 5th over much of central Indiana before a rapid warmup began with highs in the mid and upper 60s from the 6th through the 8th. Many locations across central Indiana experienced a high in the 40s on the 9th in the wake of another frontal passage. However, much of central Indiana experienced high temperatures at 50 degrees or warmer for the remainder of the month as the record warmth began in earnest.

March 2012 Avg Temp
March 2012 Difference from Normal
Lowest Temperature
84 on 21
25 on 4
86 on 21
24 on 5 and 10
84 on 21
21 on 10
Terre Haute
85 on 21
24 on 5
84 on 20 and 21
23 on 5
86 on 21
25 on 10
Indy – Eagle Crk.
84 on 21
25 on 10
At Indianapolis, there were 27 days with above normal average temperatures and 4 day with below normal average temperatures.
March 2012 was the warmest in the Indianapolis area since weather records began in 1871.

Temperature Graph 

List of Records set at Indianapolis in March:

New Max Temperature Records
New High Minumum Temperature Records
March 14
March 15
March 17
March 18
Tied record, 60
March 19
March 20
March 21
Other records set in March for Indianapolis:
·         Most consecutive days in March with highs 70 or above: 11
·         Most days in March with highs 70 or above: 14
·         Most consecutive days in March with highs 80 or above: 5
·         Most days in March with highs 80 or above: 7

Midwest Temperature Departure from Average

Departure from Normal for Monthly Average Temperature for Midwest


Precipitation during March ranged from around an inch in west central Indiana to more than 7 inches in extreme south central Indiana. Much of the western half of Indiana was on the dry side while normal to wetter than normal conditions prevailed in the eastern half. Rainfall in most areas of central and southern Indiana varied from 1.5 to 3.5 inches. Precipitation during the month fell primarily in the form of rain.
Lowland flooding and near bankfull conditions occurred along in the White River basin following locally heavy rains of 2 to nearly 4 inches on the 22nd and 23rd. Lowland flooding along portions of the East Fork White and Muscatatuck rivers lasted about 3 days. Localized flooding occurred in portions of Shelby, Johnson and Jennings Counties.  
A cold front brought scattered thunderstorms during the afternoon and evening of the 30th. Most locations across central Indiana received a half to three quarters of an inch of rain. Heavier rainfall up to two inches occurred from Brown and Lawrence Counties east through Decatur and Jennings Counties, causing some localized flooding.
March 2012 Precipitation
March 2012 Difference from Normal
Wettest Day
Longest Dry Stretch
1.34 on 23
 4 days 13-16 and 25-28
0.75 on 2
 3 days 19-21 and 25-27
1.70 on 23
 5 days 13-17 and 25-29
Terre Haute
1.24 on 2
 3 days 19-21 and 25-27
0.86 on 23
 3 days 19-21 and 25-27
2.02 on 23
 4 days 13-16 and 19-22
Indy – Eagle Crk.
1.49 on 29
 5 days 24-28
March 2012 was the 48th wettest in the Indianapolis area since weather records began in 1871.



Snowfall totals in March ranged from a trace to nearly 7 inches. All of the snow fell before the 6th. The heaviest snow fell in southern Indiana late on the 4th and early on the 5th. The areas devastated by the tornadoes on the 2nd received 2 to 4 inches of snow. The heaviest snow fell in Martin County. This was the biggest snowfall of the winter season for southern Indiana.
Severe Weather

March started off quickly with severe weather impacting the region on March 2. A powerful area of low pressure strengthened rapidly as it moved across Indiana into Michigan during the afternoon. Strong winds associated with the system combined with warm and moist air to generate severe thunderstorms across central Indiana. Much of the severe weather was large hail, with a few reports of damaging winds. This event however, will be most remembered for the significant tornadoes that impacted southern Indiana, Kentucky and southwest Ohio. Across far southern Indiana, numerous tornadoes struck, causing extreme destruction to several towns. For additional information on March 2, visit the link below:

Additional severe weather events impacted central Indiana on the 17th, 23rd and 30th. The predominant type of severe weather from each of these events was large hail, with some reports of damaging winds. The Indianapolis International Airport recorded its highest wind gust of the month at 59 mph on the evening of the 17th as a severe thunderstorm passed through. On the 23rd, a long lived mini supercell tracked from Martin County northeast through Bloomington, Shelby County and the southeast Indianapolis metro, continuing northeast through Muncie. This storm produced a wall cloud and funnel cloud in the Bloomington area, and persistent hail that generally ranged from pea to quarter size throughout much of its lifespan. Golf ball size hail occurred in Muncie after the storm briefly intensified. Maybe most impressive, this storm dropped excessive amounts of small hail throughout northwest Shelby County, causing it to collect to the depths of 3 to 4 inches deep along Interstate 74 and other roads in the vicinity of Fairland. Interstate 74 was closed for an extended time period during the early morning of the 24th as county officials needed to use snow plows to get the remnant hail off the road. 

For information on severe weather in other areas during March, visit the Storm Prediction Center “Severe Weather Event Summaries” website at
The maximum wind gust at Indianapolis International Airport was 59 mph out of the south, occurring on the evening of the 17th as scattered thunderstorms moved through the Indianapolis metro area. Fog or haze was reported at Indianapolis on12 days during the month, with dense fog reported only on the 13th. Thunder was reported on 5 days during the month.
April 2012 Outlook
The official outlook for April 2012 from the Climate Prediction Center indicates a greater chance for above normal temperatures for central Indiana.  At Indianapolis, the average temperature for the month is 53.0 degrees. The outlook also calls for a greater chance of above normal precipitation. The average precipitation for April at Indianapolis is 3.81” with 0.2” of snowfall.
Data prepared by the Indianapolis Forecast Office.

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