March 2003

(all temperatures in degrees Celsius; all averages 1961 – 1990)

Mean daily maximum: 11.9
Difference from average: +3.5

Mean daily minimum: 2.0
Difference from average: +0.5

Mean air temperature: 7.0
Difference from average: +2.0

Absolute maximum: 16.8 (25th)

Absolute minimum: -2.6 (19th)

Mean grass minimum: 0.2

Absolute grass minimum: -4.8 (19th)

Number of ground frosts: 15

Number of air frosts: 8

Mean soil temperature at 30cm depth: 6.7

Mean soil temperature at 100cm depth: 6.5

(all totals in millimetres; all averages 1961 – 1990)

Total for the month: 14.4
Difference from average: -36.8

Percentage of the average: 28%

Wettest day: 4.8 (1st)

Number of rain days (>0.25mm): 6

Number of wet days (=> 1mm): 5

3-month total rainfall to 31st March 2003: 84
Difference from average: -67.6

6-month rainfall total to 31st March 2003: 341.4
Difference from average: +17.8

12-month rainfall total to 31st March 2003: 656.8
Difference from average: +7.8

(Averages for 09:00 hours GMT)

Relative Humidity: 79%

(all averages 1961 – 1990)

Total for the month: 185 hours
Difference from average: +79.5

Percentage of the average: 175%

Mean daily sunshine: 6 hours
Difference from average: +2.6

Sunniest day: 10.3 hours (23rd)

Number of days with no recorded sunshine: 0

Cumulative total sunshine since 1st January: 354.1hours
Difference from average: +129.4


The mean wind speed: 13km/h [7kt]
Difference from average: -1.4km/hr

The highest gust: 98.1km/h [53kt] from 206° at 6:37 GMT on 9th


Comments on March 2003
Warm and dry with record-breaking sunshine. Whereas February only struggled towards average temperatures, March was well ahead, especially during the day. The mean maximum was the highest since 1990 and 3rd highest on record since 1950 (when my records begin). Given cloud-free skies, nights were cool and temperatures only a little above average. Overall, mean air temperature was exactly the same as last year, well above normal and 12th equal highest since 1850. Remarkably, March has been warmer than this five times since 1990, including 2000. The absolute maximum (16.8°C) was the highest since 1991, and equalled that in 1998.

It was the driest March since 1997, and the wettest day (only 4.8mm) was the lowest daily March total since 1993. It was the 16th driest March since 1852. The three-month total is well below average but the 6-month and 12-month totals remain close to average.

March 2003 was most remarkable for its high amount of sunshine. With records available to me back only to 1950, it was easily the sunniest March since then, beating 1995 (160.8 hours) and 1953 (155.5 hours) by a long margin. It was the first March since 1962 (I only have these data since then) when there was measurable sunshine on each and every day of the month. The cumulative sunshine total for 2003 is already remarkable, and if we have no sunshine at all during April, we shall still have received an average amount so far during the year!

Professor Tim Burt
Department of Geography
Durham University