March Mildness...

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At least that's the headline when it comes to average temperatures for the month at the Raleigh-Durham airport. The climate summary for the month was released by the National Weather Service this weekend, and shows that average highs, average lows and the monthly mean temperature all ran a little less than a degree above normal for the month. It was more like "March Sadness" when it comes to precipitation, though, as rainfall totaled only 1.25 inches, which is a 2.78 inch deficit for the month and represents only 31% of the normal rainfall for March. As a reminder, "normal" in this case means the 30-year average ending with the most recent "zero" year, currently the period 1971-2000.

The meager rainfall total represents the second driest March on record for RDU since observations began at the airport, the lowest having been 1.03 inches in March 1985. This continues, of course, a generally dry start to the year 2006 so far, and the most recent Drought Monitoring Council has upgraded central NC from a moderate to a severe drought assessment, as indicated by the contours on the map below (yellow represents "abnormally dry," tan "moderate drought," and orange is "severe") and by county list at

Showers and thunderstorms triggered by an approaching upper level trough along with a warm front/cold front complex today (I'm writing this on Monday 3 April) should help a little in the short term, but coverage and amounts will be rather uneven. As of this writing, we had picked up .56" here at WRAL and we'd seen .75" at RDU, .18" at Burlington, .34" at Rocky Mt-Wilson, and .25" at Goldsboro. Substantial shower activity was moving out of central NC toward the east, but the lagging surface cold front could assist in triggering another band or two of scattered, and possibly severe, thunderstorms later in the afternoon or early evening before cooler and drier weather sets in for the next several days.