Another record month: March was hotter than ever

The last weeks of astronomical winter felt like spring in Austria. There was only snow on the mountains, the temperature was above zero, and nature was blooming in the valleys. Not surprising since it's been very mild for weeks and above average temperatures for almost the entire month.

So it's no surprise that March 2024 was the hottest in Austria's 258-year measuring history, according to Geosphere Austria. The region's average air temperature was 3.4 degrees above the 1991-2020 average. Deviations are not high in peaks; At 2.4 degrees above average, it was the ninth warmest March since records began.

Graphics: APA/ORF; Source: Geosphere Austria

Temperatures in March are the same as in April

March 2024 was warmer than the previous record in 2017 and warmer than the average April in the 1970s. The five warmest Marches in climate history have occurred in the past 35 years. In third place is 1994, 2014 and 1989 ahead.

This year March brought not only a temperature record across Austria, but also several local records and the first “Climatic Summer Days” of the year. On March 30 it was 25 degrees in Skarding and Oberdorf an der Melk. On a long-term average, this only happens on April 18. New March highs were also reached in Klausen-Leopoldsdorf, Wels, Braunau, Kremsmünster, Bad Vöslau, Aspach and Ostermiething.

Even more unusual, the highest lows were on the night of March 29-30, the warmest March night since measurements began. At 16.5 degrees, Wiener Neustadt surpassed the old record by nearly four degrees. Bludens, Buchberg am Schneeberg, Lutzmannsburg and Wolfschek were similarly mild, with night temperatures typically only in mid-summer.

Athletes on the Danube Island in Vienna

APA/Tobias Steinmaurer

Short socks weather on Vienna's Danube island

Spring starts earlier and earlier

Due to the high temperatures, plants have woken up from dormancy exceptionally early. Many plants started blooming significantly earlier than the average spring, in some cases by as little as two weeks. Since observations began in 1946, apricot blossoms have been three weeks earlier. By delaying plant initiation, it makes plants more sensitive to late frosts. And these were. Not many, but widespread on March 20th. In Liebenau in the Mühlviertel, the lowest temperature of the month was recorded at minus 7.7 degrees, and in the Wachau it was as cold as minus three degrees.

Lots and lots of rain, rarely snow

The balance of precipitation across Austria is average, yet March 2024 was the wettest since 2009. There were considerable differences in detail. Between 40 and 65 percent of places along the Danube were extremely dry, with two and a half times as much rain and snow on average from the main Tyrolean Alps to the Carnic Alps. In Obergurgl, it was the wettest March since measurements began, and there was also a monthly record of new snow here on March 6 with 59 cm.

Snow conditions were average to above average in the higher mountains above 1,500 m, but there was little or no snow at lower elevations. For example, Innsbruck, where there is usually five days of snow, or Litschau, where there is zero snow instead of nine. Solar yields were low this year. North of the Alps the duration of sunshine reached average values, with deficits of up to 45 percent in East Tyrol and Upper Carinthia.

Hair dryer and Sahara dust

The reason is because of the heat that prevailed last month. Warm Mediterranean winds or even winds from North Africa kept coming at us with the phone's southwesterly current. This results in above-average temperatures almost all the time, with only a few days being very cold.

There was always a strong phoenix wind, and a strong storm on Easter. Speeds of 171 km/h were measured at Badscherköfel and nearly 200 km/h at Elferspitze in Stupital. At Achenkirch, gusts of up to 114 km/h hit several valleys, the highest wind speed ever measured here.

The storm gave emergency services a restless Easter. Downed trees left homes temporarily without power and roads were closed. Föhn carried hundreds of thousands of tonnes of Saharan dust into central Europe over the Easter holidays. The result is extreme concentrations of fine dust in the air, hazy, sometimes orange skies and sandy-yellow ski slopes.

A view clouded by Sahara dust at the Handelschule in Vienna

APA/Tobias Steinmaurer

Handelskeil in Vienna clouded by Sahara dust

International registrations

March 2024 was exceptionally warm not only in Austria, but also in many neighboring countries and in Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Hundreds of stations and national records were broken here over the Easter holidays, including in Germany, Poland, the Baltics, the Balkans and Greece. 30 degrees in Serbia, Albania and Romania. In some cases, old records were exceeded by an incredible three to five degrees.

The accumulation of records is also unusual. In Austria, March brought the fourth monthly record high in seven months. This has never happened before, says Geosphere climatologist Alexander Orlik. Global temperatures have been on record for ten months, and the world's oceans are warmer than ever since measurements began more than a year ago.

Greenhouse Effect and “El Nino”

The main cause of the record floods is man-made global warming, but the “El Nino” climate phenomenon, which occurs every two to seven years, also plays a role. This temporarily weakens the cold Humboldt current off the west coast of South America, causing an increase in ocean temperatures in this region, which also affects land temperatures in many parts of the world. The current “El Nino” phenomenon reached its peak in December. It is weakening now, but its warming effect only diminishes with time lag.

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