Coinciding with the release of the January 2023 Global Climate Report, the NOAA Global Surface Temperature (NOAAGlobalTemp) dataset version 5.1.0 replaced version 5.0.0. This new version includes complete global coverage and an extension of the data record back in time an additional 30 years to January 1850. While anomalies and ranks might differ slightly from what was reported previously, the main conclusions regarding global climate change are very similar to the previous version. Please see our Commonly Asked Questions Document and web story for additional information.
NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information calculates the global temperature anomaly every month based on preliminary data generated from authoritative datasets of temperature observations from around the globe. The major dataset, NOAAGlobalTemp version 5.1.0, updated in 2023, uses comprehensive data collections of increased global area coverage over both land and ocean surfaces. NOAAGlobalTempv5.1.0 is a reconstructed dataset, meaning that the entire period of record is recalculated each month with new data. Based on those new calculations, the new historical data can bring about updates to previously reported values. These factors, together, mean that calculations from the past may be superseded by the most recent data and can affect the numbers reported in the monthly climate reports. The most current reconstruction analysis is always considered the most representative and precise of the climate system, and it is publicly available through Climate at a Glance.
March 2023 was the second-warmest March for the globe in NOAA's 174-year record. The March global surface temperature was 1.24°C (2.23°F) above the 20th-century average of 12.7°C (54.9°F). March 2023 marked the 47th consecutive March and the 529th consecutive month with global temperatures, at least nominally, above the 20th-century average. The March 2023 temperature anomaly was the third highest for all months, after March 2016 and February 2016.
Global land-only temperatures ranked second warmest on record at 2.26°C (4.07°F) above average. Ocean-only temperatures ranked third-warmest on record for March, which is an important item to note as the long-lived La Niña ends. On March 9, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center announced the end of the three-year La Niña, as well as a return to neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO-neutral) conditions likely through Northern Hemisphere spring and early summer 2023.
Temperatures were above average throughout most of Asia, Africa, South America, and Antarctica. Parts of eastern North America, Europe, the Arctic, and Oceania also experienced warmer-than-average temperatures this month. Sea surface temperatures were above average across much of the northern, western, and southwestern Pacific, the central and southern Atlantic, and the western and southern Indian Ocean. Record warm temperatures covered just over 4% of the world's surface this month.
Temperatures were near to cooler than average across much of western and central North America, Iceland, and across parts of southeastern Greenland and northern Europe including Scandinavia. Sea surface temperatures were near to below average over parts of the eastern North Atlantic and the southeastern and central tropical Pacific. Less than 1% of the world's surface had a record-cold March.
In the Northern Hemisphere, March 2023 ranked second warmest on record at 1.62°C (2.92°F) above average. Both land and ocean temperatures ranked second warmest on record for the month in the Northern Hemisphere. The Southern Hemisphere also experienced its second-warmest March on record at 0.86°C (1.55°F) above average. In the Southern Hemisphere, land temperatures ranked warmest on record for March, while ocean temperatures ranked second warmest for the month.
A smoothed map of blended land and sea surface temperature anomalies is also available.
Asia had its second-warmest March on record after 2008 at 4.08°C (7.34°F) above average.
- According to the Hong Kong Observatory, March 2023 in Hong Kong ranked fourth warmest on record at 1.8°C above the 1991–2020 average.
- In Japan, March temperatures ranked warmest on record in many parts of northern, eastern, and western Japan.
- The March 2023 national mean monthly temperature for Pakistan was 1.63°C warmer than average. Minimum March temperatures ranked sixth warmest since records began in 1961.
South America and Africa each had their fourth-warmest March. Europe had its 10th-warmest March.
- Argentina recorded its warmest March since records began in 1961.
- March in Spain ranked second-warmest and second-driest on record.
- Italy had its ninth-warmest March on record.
- Temperatures across the United Kingdom in March aligned with the 1991–2020 average.
- Austria had a March that ranked among the 20 warmest on record.
- In Latvia the average air temperature was 1.4°C above the monthly norm.
- Meanwhile, Iceland, had its coldest March since 1979.
Oceania had its 17th-warmest March, and while North America had a warmer-than-average March, it did not rank among the 20 warmest on record.
- Australia recorded a national area-average mean temperature that was 1.11°C above the 1961–1990 average, tying as the 10th-warmest March on record.
- The average temperature of the contiguous U.S. in March 2023 was 40.7°F, which is 0.8°F below average, ranking in the middle third of the record.
(out of 174 years)
|Land and Ocean||+1.24||+2.23||Warmest||2nd||2016||+1.35||+2.43|
|Land and Ocean||+1.62||+2.92||Warmest||2nd||2016||+1.83||+3.29|
|Land and Ocean||+0.86||+1.55||Warmest||2nd||2016||+0.87||+1.57|
|Land and Ocean||+0.77||+1.39||Warmest||5th||1986||+0.97||+1.75|
|Land and Ocean||+2.99||+5.38||Warmest||8th||2022||+4.29||+7.72|
500 mb maps
In the atmosphere, 500-millibar height pressure anomalies correlate well with temperatures at the Earth's surface. The average position of the upper-level ridges of high pressure and troughs of low pressure—depicted by positive and negative 500-millibar height anomalies on the map—is generally reflected by areas of positive and negative temperature anomalies at the surface, respectively.
Year-to-date Temperature: January–March 2023
The January–March global surface temperature ranked fourth warmest in the 174-year record at 1.04°C (1.87°F) above the 1901-2000 average of 12.3°C (54.1°F). According to NCEI's statistical analysis, the year 2023 is very likely to rank among the 10 warmest years on record.
January to March was characterized by much-warmer-than-average conditions across much of South America, Europe, Africa, and the Arctic, as well as across parts of southern, eastern, and northwestern North America, northern, western, southern, and southeastern Asia, and northern and southwestern Oceania. Sea surface temperatures were warmer-than-average across much of the northern and western Pacific and the Atlantic. Meanwhile, near- to cooler-than-average conditions were present across parts of central-western and far northeastern North America, southeastern Greenland, north-central Australia, and northeastern Asia. The central and eastern tropical and southeast Pacific and parts of the central Indian Ocean experienced near- to cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures.
A smoothed map of blended land and sea surface temperature anomalies is also available.
Europe had its fourth-warmest year-to-date. Africa had its fifth, Asia its sixth, and South America its eighth warmest. North America had its 16th-warmest January–March period, and Oceania tied 1979 for its 25th-warmest year-to-date. Overall, the Northern Hemisphere had its fourth-warmest year-to-date, while the Southern Hemisphere had its sixth-warmest such period.
(out of 174 years)
|Land and Ocean||+1.04||+1.87||Warmest||4th||2016||+1.30||+2.34|
|Land and Ocean||+1.42||+2.56||Warmest||4th||2016||+1.78||+3.20|
|Land and Ocean||+0.66||+1.19||Warmest||6th||2016||+0.82||+1.48|
|Land and Ocean||+0.04||+0.07||Warmest||58th||1968||+0.79||+1.42|
|Ties: 1876, 1878|
|Land and Ocean||+2.73||+4.91||Warmest||6th||2016||+4.44||+7.99|
The maps shown below represent precipitation percent of normal (left, using a base period of 1961–1990) and precipitation percentiles (right, using the period of record) based on the GHCN dataset of land surface stations.
Above-average March precipitation was observed across parts of the western U.S., northern and eastern Europe and northern Asia. Meanwhile, drier-than-average conditions were present across much of southern Alaska, the eastern U.S., southern Europe, northern Africa and eastern China.
Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP)
The following analysis is based upon the Global Precipitation Climatology Project (GPCP) Interim Climate Data Record. It is provided courtesy of the GPCP Principal Investigator team at the University of Maryland.
- Niño sea surface temperatures have become neutral, but significant La Niña-related precipitation features remain across the tropics.
- Southeast Africa was hit by long-lived Cyclone Freddy and other systems that resulted in devastating floods.
- The California drought is essentially over, due to significant rains and higher altitude snows during this month and the previous one.
March contains the equinox, with the sun sitting right above the equator, and begins the transition seasons in the two hemispheres with the rainfall starting to follow the sun northward (see Fig. 1, top panel). March is a time when the seasonal rainfall patterns over the tropical oceans give a hint of what our planet might be like without a tilted axis. In March, and usually also in April, a double Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) appears in the eastern tropical Pacific, with one east-west band on each side of the equator. If one squints a little, a similar pattern can be seen in the western Pacific (encompassing the South Pacific Convergence Zone) and even in the tropical Atlantic.
The seasonal pattern is, of course, overlain with forced or random anomalies, which this March includes a waning La Niña, with the central Pacific Niño 3.4 SST index reaching neutral status. But, has the La Niña disappeared in terms of global precipitation patterns? Well, things are changing with the disappearance of the mid-Pacific sea surface temperature (SST) forcing, but as has been noted in the literature (e.g., Gu and Adler, 2011), the dynamics and precipitation patterns lag the SST by about two months, so we may expect a residual La Nina pattern this past month. And this remaining La Niña pattern is immediately obvious in the anomaly charts in Fig. 1 (middle and bottom panels) with the large, continuing negative feature in the central, tropical Pacific. However, to the west, as the Asian monsoon begins its northward movement out of Australia (see Fig. 1, top panel), the anomaly patterns have a variable result with both positives and negatives over the Maritime Continent and surrounding areas, whereas a typical La Niña pattern would be dominated by positive anomalies. During the month, the region still suffered from heavy rain events and floods in peninsular Malaysia, a deadly landslide on the island of Riau in Indonesia, and flooding in northern Australia around the Bay of Carpentaria.
The composite La Niña pattern for March can be seen in Fig. 2, along with a repeat of this March's anomaly pattern, and still shows a strong connection between the two. In fact, the correlation between the two patterns (40°N-40°S) is +0.13, indicating a still present La Niña influence, while the correlation with neutral and El Niño conditions this month is +0.01 and -014, respectively.
Another area of La Niña influence is southeast Africa, where a unique and deadly event spanned February and March as Cyclone Freddy tracked all the way across the South Indian Ocean, hit Madagascar in February and then continued across the Mozambique Strait, hit Mozambique once went offshore and then hit it again and continued northward into Malawi leaving 290 dead in the two countries. Freddy may have set the record for longest-lived tropical cyclone as it traveled over 5,000 miles. Other floods in this region of the world occurred in Kenya and eastern South Africa, and in southern Somalia, after a long drought.
As one can see from the March La Niña composite, northern South America is another tropical La Niña connection with above normal rainfall, but the heavy rain along the coastal countries of Peru and Ecuador are probably more connected to the end of La Niña in the following way. As the SST pattern across the tropical Pacific has changed with warming across most of the central and eastern region, the area immediately off the coast of Ecuador has seen rapidly increasing surface temperatures. This led to more evaporation and atmospheric moisture and convection off the coast and onto the land areas in Peru and Ecuador, resulting in floods and landslides there. As part of these storms, a weakly organized circulation was noted just offshore and referred to as "Cyclone" Yaku by the national weather agencies there, and was related to the flooding/landslide events. Elsewhere in South America, a landslide in Manaus, Brazil caused eight deaths, but further south, Argentina and Uruguay suffered through a heat wave and wildfires during one of the worst droughts in 30 years. The Argentina/Uruguay dry anomaly is still a typical La Niña feature.
Over North America, La Niña has not had an effect over the last year and the heavy rains and snow of the last few months (see Fig. 1), including March, have eliminated much of the California drought, replenished many reservoirs there, and provided an enormous snowpack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Even the Rocky Mountains had a surplus of precipitation, especially in southwest Colorado. These high precipitation values over the southwest U.S. came via a number of Atmospheric Rivers (AR) and other cyclones with accompanying floods, with one storm just off of San Francisco having a circulation similar in appearance to a hurricane. Just east of there, across Texas and up into the Midwest, there was a rainfall deficit, then a southwest-to-northeast swath of heavier precipitation than normal between there and a relatively dry east coast.
Across the mid-latitude Atlantic, a positive anomaly is noted extending into northern Europe. Although central Europe received some March precipitation, an extended drought still affects most of central Europe. On the Turkish/Syria border, a quick flood caused 14 deaths in a region of conflict with a recent earthquake. Further east in Asia, the Indian/Bangladesh monsoon seemed to have an early start, along with the flood season in China as indicated by positive anomalies in those regions.
Drought in March 2023
Drought information is based on global drought indicators available at the Global Drought Information System website, and media reports summarized by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
- Beneficial precipitation fell across parts of the drought areas in Asia, Europe, North America, and Africa during March 2023, but in many cases the precipitation wasn't enough to erase months of deficits.
- The month was drier than normal over other parts of the drought-plagued agricultural lands of North America, Europe, Africa, and South America. A significant amount of the world's agricultural lands was still suffering from low soil moisture and groundwater levels, with agriculture most threatened in parts of the Americas and Africa.
- The afflicted areas include the Canadian Prairies, Great Plains of the United States, much of South America, Western Europe, eastern China, and northern and East Africa. Like the last five months, of the continents, Australia seems to be in the best shape, but even parts of Australia were drier than normal in March.
Southern portions of Europe were drier than normal during March, while central to northern portions were near to wetter than normal. The dry area mostly bordered the Mediterranean Sea and extended from the Balkans to the Iberian Peninsula. The March dryness is a continuation of dry conditions that have been happening on and off for the last several months. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) reflects the cumulative effects of the dryness over time and shows that dryness for the last 6 months extends from Turkey to Spain. Precipitation deficits extending over a longer time period reveal dry conditions extending northward across Europe on the 1- to 6-year SPI maps. Temperatures were unusually warm across Europe, resulting in the 10th warmest March, continent-wide, based on the 114-year NCEI record. When the warmth of previous months is included, Europe had the warmest May–March on record. When increased evapotranspiration caused by excessively hot summer temperatures is combined with the dryness, as seen by the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), drought conditions are even more extreme and cover a larger area that extends back in time over the last 48 months. Satellite-based (GRACE) indicators of groundwater and soil moisture reveal the impacts of this persistent dryness across much of the continent with low groundwater and soil moisture levels evident. The European Combined Drought Indicator shows soil moisture deficits extending from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean and Black Sea countries.
According to media reports (The Guardian), officials in Catalonia, Spain, have launched what is being described as an extraordinary operation to clear as many as 1.5 tonnes of fish a day, including many invasive species, from a rapidly dwindling reservoir in the hopes of salvaging drinking water as drought continues to grip the region. River levels across the UK have been at record lows and are likely to be 'devastated', as new data forecasts broadly dry weather until at least May. Reuters reported that Spain is in the grip of a long-term drought after 36 months of below-average rainfall, with some parts so parched that officials have asked people to cut water use and meteorologists warn of worse to come. Some reservoirs in Catalonia, which surrounds Barcelona, are so low that old constructions like bridges and a church bell tower have resurfaced, people are flying kites on lake beds and navigation apps show someone in the middle of the water when they are standing on dry land. The Independent media source reported that the severe and prolonged drought that has taken hold in Spain was accompanied by wildfires that wreaked havoc unseasonably early; with reservoirs dried up almost completely, authorities feared that the dry spell could be the worst the country has faced in decades. Lake Montbel in southwest France did not refill this winter, leaving boats belonging to the local sailing club stranded on the lakebed.
Most of Asia was warmer and wetter than normal in March, with a narrow band of drier-than-normal conditions extending from the Korean Peninsula to the Caspian Sea; there were also dry areas in Southeast Asia and eastern Siberia. The continent had the second warmest March in the 1910–2023 NCEI record. Enhanced evapotranspiration, which was associated with the warm temperature anomalies, exacerbated the dryness as seen in intensified drought areas on the SPEI. Enhanced evapotranspiration was also evident across eastern China as seen on the Evaporative Stress Index (ESI). Dry conditions persisted across Southwest Asia and from the Korean Peninsula to Japan at the 2- to 3-month time scales. At 6 to 9 months, the SPI shows the drought area in southeast China, while 6- to 72-month SPI time scales reveal widespread dryness across Southwest Asia. Large parts of northern Siberia and northwest Russia are dry on the SPEI at 9- to 48-month time scales, largely reflecting the influence of enhanced evapotranspiration due to unusually warm temperatures. GRACE satellite observations reveal low groundwater and soil moisture across much of China to Mongolia, Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, and north central Asia. Media reports (Miami Herald) noted that, in southeastern China, drought lowered Dongting Lake, exposing a forgotten ancient burial ground, which local authorities found. Channel News Asia reported that two primary reservoirs in the Jeolla province of South Korea held less than 50% of capacity, leaving more than a million people nearing a water crisis.
Beneficial precipitation fell across parts of East Africa in March, while other parts of East Africa and much of the Mediterranean coast (the Maghreb region) continued drier than normal. The March precipitation helped alleviate some of the East African dryness in the short-term, but drier-than-normal conditions were still evident in the Horn of Africa at the 6-month and longer time scales. Warmer-than-normal temperatures enhanced evapotranspiration in March, as seen on the ESI, with the continent having the fourth warmest March in the NCEI record. The effect of persistent warmth over the last several years is evident in the SPEI, which shows severe drought in East and North Africa out to the last 48 months. Satellite (GRACE) observations reveal improved soil moisture in parts of East Africa, but low groundwater and soil moisture persist across North Africa, other parts of East Africa, and central to southern parts of the continent. According to media reports (EU Science Hub), the severe lack of precipitation affecting the Maghreb, and the consequent drought situation, raise concerns regarding potential impacts on agriculture, water availability and energy production and usage. The Western Producer media source reported that North Africa's durum crop is stressed. Crop conditions in almost every region of Algeria and Tunisia were declining, compared to last year. Crops are in the reproductive stage, and there is no rain in the forecast. In Morocco, drought delayed planting and has hindered crops. Reuters reported that the state water distribution company SONEDE said Tunisia will cut off water supplies to citizens for seven hours a night in response to the country's worst drought on record. The country's agriculture ministry introduced a quota system for potable water and banned its use in agriculture until Sept. 30, as the country battles with a drought that is now in its fourth year. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that drought in the Horn of Africa has ravaged communities since late 2020. In Kenya, animal carcasses are scattered along the road, the landscape is barren, and small rivers have gone dry. Al Jazeera reported that, in Ethiopia, after three years of failed rains, animals are dying, decomposing cattle carcasses lie on the ground, and more than 100 local residents were in the hospital in critical condition from malnutrition.
Much of Australia was near to wetter than normal during March 2023, except for some drier-than-normal areas in the north and east. Dryness is seen on the SPI at 2- to 3-month time scales in these regions, but most of the continent is wetter than normal at longer time scales. Dry areas are also evident along the west coast, as seen in GRACE groundwater data and in the Australian Combined Drought Indicator analyses.
In South America, above-normal precipitation fell over parts of the drought areas in March, but precipitation amounts were below normal across many other areas. Temperatures were above normal across most of the continent, resulting in the fourth-warmest March on record. The ESI showed enhanced evapotranspiration, especially in the drought areas in Uruguay and Argentina. The SPI maps showed very dry areas from Peru and Brazil south to Chile and Argentina at all time scales from 1 to 72 months. The drought areas were more widespread and intense on the SPEI maps, where evapotranspiration is taken into account. Satellite (GRACE) observations reveal extensive areas of low groundwater and soil moisture. Drought in southern and western Brazil was confirmed on the Brazilian Drought Monitor. According to media reports (Reuters), Argentina, the world's top processed soy exporter and third biggest corn exporter, is enduring an historic drought that is ravaging crops and intensifying an economic crisis.
In North America, successive atmospheric river events brought much-above-normal precipitation to large parts of the western U.S., from California to the Rocky Mountains. This precipitation improved reservoir levels and mountain snowpack, bringing an end to drought over large parts of the West. But March was drier than normal across other parts of the U.S., including the central to southern Great Plains, along the Gulf of Mexico Coast, and in the Mid-Atlantic region. The month was also drier than normal from the U.S. Pacific Northwest and much of Canada. SPI maps at the 2- to 3-month time scales reveal extensive dryness across most of Canada, east central Mexico, and along the Gulf of Mexico and East Coasts of the U.S. At the 6- to 12-month time scales, dry conditions spread across much of Mexico but become concentrated across the western half of Canada and in the central U.S. (Great Plains). At the 3-year time period, dryness extends from Mexico to the U.S. Great Plains, and across the U.S.-Canadian border. The 6-year SPI shows dry conditions across parts of Mexico, the western U.S., and southern Canada. Much of Mexico had a warmer-than-normal March, but the western U.S. to central Canada were cooler than normal. Unusually hot temperatures in previous years, especially over the western U.S., increased evapotranspiration and resulted in more severe and widespread drought as seen on the SPEI maps. GRACE satellite data revealed low groundwater and soil moisture levels over northern and central Mexico, from the southern Plains to Pacific Northwest in the U.S., and extending across western to central and north central Canada. The North American Drought Monitor product depicted drought across much of western to central Canada, most of the central to western U.S., the Gulf of Mexico coast, and much of Mexico.
According to media reports (Haitian Times), in the Caribbean, a 4-month severe drought in Haiti's provincial town of Pestel has turned disastrous, destroying crops, killing farm animals and causing health problems among the population. In the U.S., the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that 28% of the winter wheat crop was in good or excellent condition, the lowest for early April since 1996. Thirty-six percent of the crop was rated poor to very poor (PVP), up from 26% in late November and the same as last year at this time. This is also the worst early April PVP rating since 1996. Strong winds have produced dust storms on the Southern Plains, creating static electricity that affected the winter wheat crop. Red sand overspread roads and highways in Texas as transportation crews tried to keep the roads clear. A cotton farmer 45 miles south of Lubbock, Texas, noted that soil moisture profiles were empty, causing more concern about this year's crop. Cattle being brought to market in San Angelo, Texas, are significantly smaller than in previous years as drought limits forage growth, leaving less food for cattle; many say that the summer of 2022 was harder for cattle producers than the 2011 drought. The KAKE media source reported that the Kansas Water Authority voted in December to stop draining the Ogallala Aquifer for agriculture. Kansas lawmakers have also approved a bill that encourages groundwater districts to reduce water usage in areas with the most severe depletion. Water levels in the Ogallala Aquifer, which is a major source of groundwater in the southern to central Plains, have significantly declined in recent years. Nebraska Today media source reported that groundwater levels have declined across most of Nebraska following multiple years of below-average precipitation.
Ocean Heat Content
Ocean Heat Content (OHC) is essential for understanding and modeling global climate since > 90% of excess heat in the Earth's system is absorbed by the ocean. Further, expansion due to increased ocean heat contributes to sea level rise. Change in OHC is calculated from the difference of observed temperature profiles from the long-term mean.
|Basin||0-700 meters | Rank (1955-2023)|
|Entire Basin||Northern Hemisphere||Southern Hemisphere|
|Source: Basin time series of heat content|
Global ocean heat content (OHC) for January–March 2023 was the highest January–March OHC in our records, which extend back to 1955. It is the highest quarterly OHC ever recorded. However, it is still within statistical uncertainty of the second highest value in our records, which occurred in the previous quarter (October–December 2022). Overall, the latest quarterly OHC reveals widespread warmer-than-normal conditions relative to the 1955–2006 mean, a situation observed since the end of 2016. In general, current OHC features are similar to those observed since October–December 2022. A notable difference from the previous quarter is the weakening of the cool conditions in the tropical and south subtropical eastern Pacific Ocean. Higher-than-normal conditions, about 10x105 J/m3 just north of the equator now extend westward from South America to 100°W. As in previous quarters, cooler than normal conditions, about -10x105 J/m3, persist across the subtropical North Pacific Ocean. Much higher-than-normal (> 30x105 J/m3) OHC conditions continue to exist in the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Current, the North Pacific Current, the western tropical Pacific Ocean, and the northern Antarctic Circumpolar Current in the Indian Ocean sector. Higher, > 10x105 J/m3, than normal OHC conditions dominate the Indonesian Throughflow, the eastern Indian Ocean, and the Tasman Sea. Cool conditions, < -10x105 J/m3, persist in the subpolar North Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland. Higher-than-normal OHC conditions dominate most of the South Atlantic Ocean.
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