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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/12/2008

D.C. March Heat Waves: The Big Four

By Matt Ross

Unfortunately, folks looking forward to an early spring will have to wait a bit longer. While we will certainly see oscillations in the weather, there are no indications of extreme or extended heat over the next couple weeks. But that doesn't preclude us from talking about March heat waves of the past. There are four that stand above the others -- 1907, 1921, 1945 and 1990.


One wouldn't immediately think extreme heat when looking at the stats for 1907. The month finished just a couple degrees above normal, and had over 6 inches of snowfall. Yet, the end of the month featured a heat wave yet to be matched over 100 years later.

March 22-24 saw the mercury hit 90, 93 and 85 degrees, respectively. Then, March 29 capped the month off with a 92-degree reading. The 93 degrees on the 23rd is our highest March temperature in recorded history, and the three 90-degree days that month still stand as the only official 90-degree days in March history. Given the heat island effect of the city in the last few decades, this is quite a remarkable feat. Almost as remarkable, the April that followed not only was colder than March, but also is the coldest in the last 130 years and featured over an inch of snow.

1921 and 1945

March 1921, while not matching the extremes of 1907, is tied for the warmest March on record with 1945. No other March is even within two degrees of these giants. 1921 featured three record highs toward the end of the month, peaking with a high of 89 on the 21st.

The five record highs set in March 1945 are the most for any March on record. The March 16-20 period saw thermometer readings well into the mid 80s four times, with the fifth record high coming in at 84 degrees on the 28th. Unlike 1907, the heat lasted into April in both years and neither year saw measurable snow in March or April.


March 1990 is our most recent March heat wave and one that many of us fondly (or not so fondly) remember. After a near record cold December, the heat came and never left the rest of winter. In an otherwise cool month, the March 9-19 period featured a heat wave, which peaked March 12-16. During this five-day period, the temperature exceeded 80 degrees each day and four record highs were set, including 89 degrees on the 12th. Similar to the granddaddy of them all, 1907, it got much cooler after this heat wave with several small snow events, including one in early April.

Great for snow lovers, but a cruel spring tease nonetheless.

By Matt Ross  | March 12, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate  
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