National Overview - March 2016


NCEI added Alaska climate divisions to its nClimDiv dataset on Friday, March 6, 2015, coincident with the release of the February 2015 monthly monitoring report. For more information on this data, please visit the Alaska Climate Divisions FAQ.

Maps and Graphics

Temperature and Precipitation Ranks

U.S. Percentage Areas

More Information


National Overview:



March Extreme Weather/Climate Events

Supplemental March 2016 Information


  • Climate Highlights — March
 Average Temperature Departures (March)
March Average Temperature Departures
 March Percent of Average Precip
March Percent of Average Precipitation

Temperature

    Sep-Nov 2016 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

    March 2016 Statewide Temperature Ranks
  • The March temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 47.5°F, or 6.0°F above the 20th century average. This was the fourth warmest March in the 122-year period of record for the Lower 48 and warmest since 2012.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 59.4°F, 6.4°F above the 20th century average, the fourth warmest on record. The average minimum temperature was 35.5°F, 5.5°F above average, also the fourth warmest on record.
  • Every state in the contiguous U.S. had an above-average March temperature. Temperatures were much warmer than average across parts of the Rocky Mountains, Central and Northern Plains, Midwest, and along the East Coast. No state had a record warm March.
  • The Alaska March temperature was the sixth warmest in the 92-year period of record at 18.6°F, 7.8°F above average. Record warmth was observed across southern parts of the state. The end of March was particularly warm for Alaska with several locations setting new March daily temperature records. On March 31, the temperature at Klawock in southeastern Alaska reached 71.0°F, the warmest March temperature ever observed in the state.
  • During March there were 5,956 record warm daily high (2,484) and low (3,472) temperature records, which is more than 22 times the 266 record cold daily high (154) and low (112) temperature records
  • Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 71.3 percent below average and the fifth lowest value on record. The warm temperatures during the first part of March across the densely populated Midwest and Northeast contributed to the low REDTI value.

Precipitation

Sep-March 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
March 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks
  • The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.89 inches, 0.38 inch above the 20th century average, and the 26th wettest on record.
  • Above-average precipitation was observed along the West Coast, Midwest, Southern Plains and Lower Mississippi River Valley. Seven states were much wetter than average. Record-breaking rain events at both the beginning and end of March caused significant flooding across parts of the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas, each had their wettest March on record with 16.20 inches and 12.33 inches of rain, respectively.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Southwest and Central Plains and along parts of the East Coast, where eight states were much drier than average. New Mexico had its driest March on record with 0.06 inch of precipitation, only 8 percent of average.
  • According to an analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 382,000 square miles, 359,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average and the second smallest in the 50-year period of record. The smallest March snow cover extent occurred in 1968 at 343,000 square miles.
  • According to the March 29 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 15.1 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up about 0.8 percent compared to the beginning of March. Drought conditions improved across parts of the Northwest and Northern California; however, drought conditions continued to impact over 90 percent of California. Drought conditions worsened in the Southwest and parts of the Southern and Central Plains. Short-term drought created ideal wildfire conditions along the Oklahoma and Kansas border, where a grassland fire charred more than 400,000 acres, the largest wildfire on record in Kansas.


  • Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January-March)
 Average Temperature Departures (March)
Jan-Mar Average Temperature Departures
 March Percent of Average Precip
Jan-Mar Percent of Average Precipitation

Temperature

    Sep-Nov 2016 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map


    Jan-Mar Statewide Temperature Ranks
  • The January-March temperature was 39.7°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the fourth warmest year-to-date on record and warmest since 2012.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-March was 50.7°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average, the third warmest on record. The average minimum temperature was 28.7°F, 4.5°F above average, and the second warmest on record.
  • Above-average temperatures spanned the nation for the first three months of 2016. Thirty-two states across the West, Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast were much warmer than average. Florida had a near-average January-March temperature.
  • Alaska was record warm for the year-to-date with a statewide temperature of 17.8°F, 11.9°F above average. This bested the previous record of 17.0°F in 1981. Record warmth was observed across large areas of the state with several locations being record warm including: Barrow, Bethel, Homer, Juneau and King Salmon.
  • Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-March was 34.1 percent below average and the fourth lowest value on record.

Precipitation

    Sep-March 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
    Jan-Mar Statewide Precipitation Ranks
  • The January-March precipitation total was 6.92 inches, 0.04 inch below average, and ranked near the median value in the 122-year period of record.
  • Above-average precipitation was observed for parts of the Northwest, Northern Rockies, Midwest and Southeast. Michigan and Wisconsin had a much wetter than average year-to-date. Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Southwest, Northern Rockies and Central Plains and along parts of the East Coast. New Mexico had its 11th driest year-to-date.

Extremes

  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was 45 percent above average and the 13th highest value on record. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures and the spatial extent of wetness were much above average. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation and drought across the contiguous U.S.
    • Regionally, the year-to-date CEI ranked among the ten highest in the Upper Midwest due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wetness, and one-day precipitation totals and in the Northern Plains and Rockies due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures.


  • Climate Highlights — Cold Season (October 2015-March 2016)
 Average Temperature Departures (Oct-Mar)
Oct-Mar Average Temperature Departures
 Oct-Mar Percent of Average Precip
Oct-Mar Percent of Average Precipitation

Temperature

    Oct-Mar 2016 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

    Oct-Mar Statewide Temperature Ranks
  • The October-March temperature was 43.3°F, 4.3°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the warmest cold season on record, surpassing the previous record set of 43.1°F set in 1999/2000.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during October-March was 54.1°F, 4.0°F above the 20th century average, the third warmest on record. The average minimum temperature was 32.5°F, 4.6°F above average, surpassing the previous record warm value of 31.6°F in 2011/2012.
  • Above-average temperatures spanned the nation during the cold season. Forty-six states were much warmer than average, including Florida and Kansas which were record warm. The Florida October-March temperature was 66.7°F, surpassing the previous record of 66.4°F in 1931/32. The Kansas six-month average temperature was 44.3°F, surpassing the previous record of 44.1°F in 1999/2000.
  • Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during October-March was 96.1 percent below average and the second lowest value on record.

Precipitation

Oct-Mar 2016 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
Oct-Mar Statewide Precipitation Ranks
  • The October-March precipitation total was 17.23 inches, 3.63 inches above average, and the third wettest cold season on record for the contiguous United States. Only the cold seasons of 1982/83 and 1972/73 were wetter with 17.54 inches and 17.26 inches of precipitation, respectively. Strong El Niño conditions were present during both the 1982/83 and 1972/73 cold seasons, as well during the cold season of 2015/16.
  • Above-average precipitation was observed for the Northwest, much of the Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeast. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin were each record wet for the six-month period. The North Carolina precipitation total was 148 percent of average, the South Carolina precipitation total was 169 percent of average, and the Wisconsin precipitation total was 165 percent of average.

Extremes

  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the cold season was twice the long-term average and the record highest value on record. On the national scale, extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wetness, one-day precipitation totals, and days with precipitation were much above average.
    • Regionally, the CEI was record high for the Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley and South due to extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, the spatial extent of wetness, and one-day precipitation totals. The CEI was among the ten highest for the Northeast, Southeast, and Nothern Rockies and Plains.

**A comparison of the national temperature departure from average as calculated by NCDC's operational dataset (nClimDiv), the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), and the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) is available on our National Temperature Index page.**



Regional Highlights:

These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Climatic Data Center.

  • Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
  • The Northeast wrapped up March on the warm side of normal. The region's average temperature of 40.0 degrees F (4.4 degrees C) was 5.6 degrees F (3.1 degrees C) above normal, making it the eighth warmest March since 1895. State departures ranged from 2.3 degrees F (1.3 degrees C) above normal in Maine to 6.6 degrees F (3.7 degrees C) above normal in West Virginia. Eleven of the twelve states ranked this March among their top twelve warmest: Connecticut and New Jersey, 4th warmest; Delaware, Maryland and Rhode Island, 5th warmest; Pennsylvania, 6th warmest; Massachusetts and West Virginia, 7th warmest; New York, 9th warmest; and New Hampshire and Vermont, 11th warmest.
  • March was a drier-than-normal month for the Northeast. The region picked up 2.50 inches (63.5 mm) of precipitation, 71 percent of normal. Eleven states saw below-normal precipitation, with six of them ranking this March among their top fourteen driest: New Jersey, 9th driest; Maryland and Pennsylvania, 10th driest; Connecticut, 12th driest; Delaware, 13th driest; and West Virginia, 14th driest. Precipitation for all states ranged from 46 percent of normal in Maryland and New Jersey to 114 percent of normal in Maine.
  • According to the March 3 U.S. Drought Monitor, 4 percent of the Northeast was abnormally dry. Much of the region saw drier-than-normal conditions during March, which led to a slight expansion of abnormal dryness. By month's end, 6 percent of the region was abnormally dry.
  • Four sites set or tied their record for lowest season-to-date snowfall. From October 1 through March 31, Williamsport, Pennsylvania received only 5.9 inches of snow (old record was 7.0 inches in 1989), while Albany, New York accumulated only 10.5 inches of snow (old record was 13.7 inches in 1913). Concord, New Hampshire tied its record from 1980 of 27 inches. Binghamton, New York's season-to-date snowfall was 22.7 inches, which was 19.5 inches less than its previous record from 1989.
  • For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
  • March temperatures were well above normal in the Midwest, ranking 2016 as the 6th warmest on record (122 years). Cold temperatures in the first few days of March gave way to well above normal temperatures in the weeks that followed with several days more than 20 degrees F (11 C) above normal. Later in the month temperatures reverted closer to normal but still remained mostly above normal. Statewide departures were 5 to 8 degrees F (2.8 to 4.4 C) above normal ranking all nine Midwest states among the warmest 10 percent of their respective histories. The region ranked third for February-March, 9th for January-March, and second for each of the periods from 4-month (December-March) to 12-month (April-March).
  • March precipitation was mixed in the Midwest. Below normal totals were recorded in western Minnesota, eastern Kentucky, and most of Missouri. Above normal totals were more than twice normal statewide in Wisconsin, ranking as the second wettest March in history (1895-2016). Michigan ranked as the 4th wettest in its history. Minnesota ranked as the 13th wettest in the state's history despite the drier than average values in the western third of the state. Snow totals were also mixed in the region with above normal values from the Iowa-Minnesota border eastward to lower Michigan and below normal totals in much of the remaining areas. Two storms, one early and one late, tracked similar paths dropping significant snows and accounting for much of the March totals.
  • The severe weather season ramped up in March with reports in all nine states. The majority of the activity was in the southern two-thirds of the region. Reports of tornadoes, large hail, and damaging thunderstorm winds were reported on 14 days in March with dozens of reports on the 14th-15th, the 27th, and the 30th-31st. There were also non-convective winds on the 16th across eastern Iowa, southern Wisconsin, and much of Illinois that reached 40 to 60 miles per hour (64 to 97 kilometers per hour) and snapped trees and power poles.
  • The US Drought Monitor reported no drought in the Midwest for the third month in a row. The 13 consecutive weeks with no drought in the region is the longest such stretch in the history of the US Drought Monitor which began in 2000. Small areas noted as abnormally dry persisted throughout the month and much of Missouri saw introduction of abnormally dry in the March 29 issue of the US Drought Monitor.
  • Lake and rivers in the Midwest thawed early in 2016. Shipping on the Great Lakes resumed early. Navigation on the Mississippi River was also early compared to average. Many inland lakes in the southern two-thirds of Minnesota were ice free by the end of March with many recording ice out well before average.
  • For further details on the weather and climate events in the Midwest, see the weekly and monthly reports at the Midwest Climate Watch page.
  • Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures were well above average across much of the Southeast, with numerous warm extremes observed during March. Mean temperature departures were 2 to 8 degrees F (1.1 to 4.4 degrees C) above average across the entire region, with the greatest departures occurring in the Carolinas and Virginia. A total of 40 long-term (i.e. period of record exceeding 50 years) stations observed or tied their third warmest or greater March mean temperature on record, including Miami, FL (1896-2016), Charleston, SC (1938-2016), and Cape Hatteras, NC (1893-2016). The unusual warmth was also persistent during the month, as Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (1894-2016) tied its greatest count of March days on record (19 days) with a maximum temperature at or above 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C). In addition, Wilmington, NC (1875-2016) observed its greatest count of March days on record (10 days) with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C). Temperatures were above average in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well, with Juncos, PR (1931-2016) observing its fourth warmest March mean temperature on record. Across the Southeast, the warmest weather of the month occurred on the 15th and 16th, as a strong cold front approached the region from the west. During this two-day period, maximum temperatures exceeded 80 degrees F across a broad portion of the region, with numerous locations reaching the upper 80s F (30.6 to 31.7 degrees C). On the 16th, Oceana Naval Air Station (1945-2016) near Virginia Beach, VA observed its warmest maximum temperature for March on record, reaching 91 degrees F (32.8 degrees C). In addition, New Bern, NC (1949-2016) tied its warmest maximum temperature for March on record, reaching 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) on the 16th. In contrast, the coldest weather of the month occurred on the 3rd, 5th, and 22nd, as continental high pressure systems settled over the region from the northwest. Daily minimum temperatures fell below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) across much of North Carolina and Virginia on the 3rd and 5th, while most of the region north of central Florida recorded minimum temperatures below 35 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) on the 22nd.
  • Precipitation was generally below normal across the Southeast during March, with several extremes recorded. The driest locations were found across portions of central and western North Carolina, Upstate South Carolina, and northeastern Georgia, where monthly precipitation totals were 3 to 4 inches (76.2 to 102 mm) below normal. Charlotte, NC (1879-2016) and Richmond, VA (1887-2016) observed their second and third driest March on record with 0.85 (21.6 mm) and 1.02 inches (25.9 mm) of precipitation, respectively. In contrast, the wettest locations were found across southwestern Alabama and isolated portions of southeastern Alabama and central and southeastern Florida, where monthly precipitation totals were 3 to 8 inches (76.2 to 203 mm) above normal. On the 25th, Titusville, FL (1901-2016) observed its third wettest March day on record with 4.50 inches (114 mm) of precipitation. On the 27th, Savannah, GA (1871-2016) observed its wettest March day on record with 3.98 inches (101 mm) of precipitation. In spite of the warmth, measurable snowfall was recorded in every state with the exception of Florida, and Mt. Mitchell, NC observed the greatest monthly snowfall total across the region at 8.0 inches.
  • There were 207 severe weather reports across the Southeast during March, which is about 80 percent of the median monthly frequency of 253 reports during 2000-2015. Only 62 reports of large hail were recorded during March, which is less than 55 percent of the median monthly frequency of 118 hail reports during 2000-2015. At least one severe weather report was recorded within the region on 11 days during the month, but approximately 60 percent of the reports (124 of 207) occurred on just 3 days during the month (14th, 24th, and 31st). At least 5 severe weather reports were recorded in every state across the region, with the greatest numbers occurring in Alabama (90; 43 percent of total) and Florida (61; 29 percent of total). Strong thunderstorm winds on the 24th and early on the 25th resulted in roof damage to apartments on the University of South Alabama campus in Mobile as well as damage to 14 mobile homes near Dade City, FL. Following the passage of a squall line on the 24th, non-convective wind gusts reaching 57 mph were measured at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA. On the 14th, numerous reports of large hail were recorded across portions of the Carolinas and Virginia, with 2-inch (hen egg-sized) hail causing significant tree damage near Taylors, SC. Fourteen tornadoes (6 EF-0s, 6 EF-1s, 2 EF-2s) were confirmed across the region during the month, which is slightly less than the short-term (2000-2015) median frequency of 19 tornadoes observed during March. All but two of the tornadoes occurred in Alabama, including both of the EF-2 tornadoes. On the 1st of the month, an EF-2 tornado touched down just south of Bessemer, AL (a suburb of Birmingham), resulting in four reported injuries. Six homes sustained major damage, and an additional six homes were destroyed. Fourteen homes, a high school, a church, and a golf course pro shop sustained minor damage. On the 31st, an EF-2 tornado touched down near Hartselle, AL (located about 25 miles southwest of Huntsville), causing major damage to two mobile homes and minor damage to several other residences along its 8.5-mile path.
  • Drought conditions (D1 and greater) were not observed across the Southeast region (excluding Puerto Rico) during March. The extent of moderate-to-severe (D1 through D2) drought conditions across eastern and southern portions of Puerto Rico remained near 19 percent during the month. Predominately warm, dry weather during the month allowed farmers across much of the region to prepare fields for spring planting, with corn plants already emerging in some locations. In addition, livestock producers in Georgia and Florida were able to reduce supplemental feeding of animals that had been required previously due to saturated pastures. Favorable weather during March also aided in the development of the Vidalia onion crop in southeastern Georgia. With a low threat of disease, the size and quality of Vidalia onions are expected to be very good when the harvest begins in April.
  • For more information, please go to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • High Plains Region: (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center )
  • The warm pattern that was evident in February continued into March throughout the High Plains. Above normal temperatures prevailed across almost the entire region, and many locations experienced the warmest first half of March (March 1-15) on record. The greatest departures occurred once again in North Dakota. It was the 2nd warmest March on record in Grand Forks and Minot, with temperature departures of more than 10.0 degrees F (5.6 degrees C) above normal at both locations (Grand Forks period of record 1894-2016, Minot period of record 1949-2016). There were numerous locations throughout the region that had a top 10 warmest March on record, but the warmth did not top March 2012, a year that many remember as having a mild winter and an extremely early onset of spring.
  • Wet and dry conditions were both prominent across the region in March. Above normal precipitation occurred throughout much of Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle, which improved abysmal snowpack conditions in the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming and prevented further development of drought in that area. Lander, Wyoming had its wettest March and 8th snowiest March on record (period of record 1892-2016). Much of the rest of the region was dry, especially across southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado. Garden City, Kansas had its driest March on record with only a trace of precipitation recorded (period of record 1947-2016). A combination of the dryness and warm temperatures led to drought development in this area. Wildfires were a common feature in this region during March, and windy conditions caused them to spread quickly. In fact, Kansas had one of its largest wildfires in history, which burned nearly 400,000 acres.
  • Warm and dry conditions prompted farmers to get out in their fields early to prepare for planting. As spring planting season nears, soil moisture conditions become very important to farmers. Reports from around the region stated that topsoil moisture in parts of North Dakota and Kansas was rather dry, which could negatively impact winter grains. Without ample precipitation, this could become more of a concern as the crop matures.
  • It was a very warm March across the High Plains, as most of the region experienced temperatures of 2.0-10.0 degrees F (1.1-5.6 degrees C) above normal. Once again, the greatest temperature departures for the month occurred in the Dakotas, where temperatures in some locations were greater than 10.0 degrees F (5.6 degrees C) above normal. It was especially warm the first half of March. Much of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas experienced the warmest March 1-15 period on record. One example of a very warm location was Aberdeen, South Dakota. The average temperature for March was 10.5 degrees F (5.8 degrees C) above normal, which was Aberdeen's 4th warmest March on record (period of record 1894-2016). The first half of March was especially warm. The average temperature in Aberdeen for the March 1-15 period was 42.7 degrees F (5.9 degrees C), which was the warmest March 1-15 period on record, beating the previous record of 38.4 degrees F (3.6 degrees C) that occurred in 1973.
  • The warmth caused early green-up across the region, as trees and flowers bloomed much earlier than normal. There was particular concern for the winter wheat crop in southeastern Colorado and southwestern Kansas. Warm temperatures caused growth to progress quickly, and then a hard freeze occurred on March 20th that resulted in temperatures dipping down into the teens and single digits across the area. The accelerated growth, lack of snow cover, and the freeze may have caused damage to the crop. However, drought recently developed in this area, so it may be difficult to determine whether potential damage was caused by the freeze or the drought.
  • March was a mix of wetter than normal and drier than normal conditions across the High Plains. Much of Wyoming and the Nebraska panhandle experienced impressive precipitation amounts during the month. Lander, Wyoming reported 4.59 inches (117 mm) of precipitation and had its wettest March on record (period of record 1892-2016). This shattered the previous record of 3.56 inches (90 mm), which occurred in March 1906. Lander also had its 8th snowiest March on record. A snowstorm at the end of the month dropped 15.3 inches (39 cm) of snow on the 29th, which became the 6th snowiest March day on record in Lander.
  • A powerful storm system moved through the region March 23-24 and impacted a swath from northeastern Colorado through central Nebraska to southeastern South Dakota. Blizzard conditions caused power outages, downed trees, and the closure of portions of Interstates 70 and 80. Denver International Airport received 13.1 inches (33 cm) of snow on the 23rd, causing the airport to shut down. Snowfall totals in northeastern Nebraska were also impressive, as 16.0 inches (41 cm) of snow fell near the community of Wayne. The storm system even sparked severe weather in southeastern Nebraska, as 1.00 inch hail was reported near Gretna. At one point on the 23rd, there was a winter storm warning and a tornado watch less than 150 miles from each other in eastern Nebraska, which is not uncommon in the Plains during spring!
  • Some locations in the High Plains were dry during March. Large portions of Kansas missed out on precipitation. Garden City had its driest March on record, receiving only a trace of precipitation the entire month (period of record 1947-2016). Dodge City received 0.04 inches (1 mm) of precipitation in March, which was only 3 percent of normal. Though not record-breaking, it was also dry across much of the Dakotas, central and southern Nebraska, and southern Colorado. The dryness was welcomed by farmers, however, as it was helpful for the preparation of fields for planting.
  • As for snow, some locations received mostly rain in March, causing snowfall to be below normal. This was the case for Lincoln, Nebraska, which received only a trace of snow. Although not uncommon for March, 2016 joins the ranks with 8 other years that only saw a trace of snow. Only 2012 was less snowy, when no snowfall was recorded in Lincoln in March.
  • As for snow, some locations received mostly rain in March, causing snowfall to be below normal. This was the case for Lincoln, Nebraska, which received only a trace of snow. Although not uncommon for March, 2016 joins the ranks with 8 other years that only saw a trace of snow. Only 2012 was less snowy, when no snowfall was recorded in Lincoln in March.
  • Colorado snowpack was faring well statewide at just below 100 percent of median at the end of March. Snowpack in the northern part of the state was in really good shape, as conditions were a bit cooler and wetter during the month than the rest of the state. However, southern Colorado was warmer and drier, and SNOTEL sites indicated that snowpack was not faring quite as well there. Wyoming caught a break in March, as above normal precipitation caused snowpack to improve throughout much of the state. The Bighorn Mountains, which were in severe drought as of the end of March, were still faring the worst in the state, but snow-water equivalent in the Bighorn River Basin improved to 89 percent of median by the end of the month.
  • Persistent warmth and dryness in March led to further degradations in drought conditions during the month. The area in drought in the High Plains region increased from about 3 percent at the end of February to over 8 percent by the end of March, and nearly half the region was experiencing at least abnormal dryness (D0) by the end of the month. The area of moderate drought (D1) in North Dakota expanded due to much above normal temperatures and continued dryness. Impacts such as drying soils, low water levels in ponds, and dried up wetlands were reported.
  • In Wyoming, the two areas in drought expanded at the beginning of March. Snowpack in the Wind River Mountains and the Bighorn Mountains had not been faring well due to warmth and dryness throughout the winter. However, above normal precipitation in March helped improve the snowpack in these mountain ranges, so drought conditions held steady during the rest of the month.
  • An area of D1 developed in southeastern Colorado and southern Kansas during March. Additionally, D0 expanded across southern and eastern Colorado, as well as much of Kansas. This region was warm and extremely dry throughout the month. Western and central Kansas received only 50 percent of normal precipitation, at best. Warm, dry, and windy conditions caused numerous grass fires and blowing dust on March 22-23. Topsoil was also rather dry in this region. Without relief, this area in drought will likely expand in April.
  • For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • As was the case in February, March average temperatures in the Southern Region were consistently above normal for all six states. Temperature anomalies were generally 3-6 degrees F (1.67-3.33 degrees C) above normal across the entire region. All six states averaged well above normal for the month. The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas reporting 55.40 degrees F (13.00 degrees C), Louisiana reporting 63.60 degrees F (17.56 degrees C), Mississippi reporting 60.30 (15.72 degrees C), Oklahoma reporting 54.80 degrees F (12.67 degrees C), Tennessee reporting 53.90 degrees F (12.17 degrees C), and Texas reporting 61.30 degrees F (16.28 degrees C). All state rankings fell on the warmer side of normal. For Louisiana, it was the thirteenth warmest March on record. Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas all recorded their fourteenth warmest March on record. For Oklahoma, it was their eleventh warmest March, while Arkansas experienced its twenty-first warmest March on record. All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2016.
  • March precipitation in the Southern Region varied dramatically with the northwestern and northeastern corners of the region experiencing much drier than normal conditions, while central portions of the region experienced flooding events from heavy rainfall totals. In the central portions of the region, many stations reported between one and a half to three times the monthly total. This was mostly due to the passage of a slow moving cold front and Gulf of Mexico low pressure system. The state-wide precipitation totals for the month are as follows: Arkansas reporting 9.90 inches (251.46 mm), Louisiana reporting 10.40 inches (264.16 mm), Mississippi reporting 10.96 inches (278.38 mm), Oklahoma reporting 2.34 inches (59.44 mm), Tennessee reporting 5.19 inches (131.83 mm), and Texas reporting 2.85 inches (72.39 mm). The state precipitation rankings for the month are as follows: Arkansas (third wettest)), Louisiana (second wettest), Mississippi (fourth wettest), Oklahoma (sixty-first driest), Tennessee (sixty-first wettest), and Texas (twelfth wettest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2016.
  • Because of excessive heat and lack of rainfall in the northwestern portions of the Southern Region during March, the National Drought Mitigation Center has declared some moderate drought conditions in the western counties of Oklahoma and in the northern Texas panhandle.
  • Several tornadoes were reported across central Texas on March 8, 2016. There were no reports of injuries or fatalities.
  • On March 13, 2016, several tornadoes were reported across central and southern Arkansas. Most of the reported damage seems to be limited to trees and power lines, however, one person was reported injured in Chicot County, Arkansas. Two more people in Chicot County were injured on March 30, 2016, from another set of twisters that ripped through the state.
  • The primary story for severe weather in the month of March for the Southern Region was a heavy rainfall event that occurred between March 8-12, 2016. Many portions of eastern Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi saw rainfall totals over 18 inches (457.2 mm), and in the case of northeastern Louisiana, over 22 inches (558.8 mm) of rainfall. CNN reported that over 300 homes in the Mississippi delta were flooded, and four people were killed. One hundred more homes were flooded in Southeastern Mississippi. Concerns about the weather on March 10 prompted officials to close down schools, universities and government offices across the southern parishes of Louisiana. In the case of the latter, government offices in forty parishes were closed through Friday, March 11. The heavy rainfalls also produced high stage levels over many of the rivers in the southern portions of the state, causing road closures, and more flooding events. The Sabine River, which borders Louisiana and Texas, reached record levels following this event. The Sabine crested at 33.24 feet (10.13 m) around March 15. Evacuations were ordered in Deweyville, Texas, and in Newton County, over four hundred homes were flooded by the racing river. According to the Associated Press, over twenty counties in Texas were under a state of disaster declaration.
  • For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
  • March saw a return to active weather following a warmer and drier than normal February in much of the West. Several strong storms impacted the region, boosting snowpack across most western mountains. As has been the general pattern this cool season, drier than normal conditions dominated over the southern tier of the region with wetter conditions in the Northwest, in contrast with the expectations of strong El Niño events.
  • Near to well-above normal temperatures were observed across the West. Some of the greatest temperature anomalies occurred in central and eastern Montana, typical of a strong El Niño event and similar to preceding winter months. Miles City and Glasgow both had their 4th warmest March on record at 42.6 F (5.9 C), 7.9 F (4.4 C) above normal, and 39.8 F (4.3 C), 8.1 F (4.5 C) above normal, respectively. Records for Miles City began in 1937 and Glasgow in 1948. In the Great Basin, temperatures at Elko, Nevada, averaged to 42.9 F (6 C), 4 F (2.2 C) above normal and 8th warmest in a 127-year record. Farther south, March average temperature in Tucson, Arizona was 65 F (18.3 C), 4.9 F (2.7 C) above average, and tied for 4th warmest from 1946-present.
  • Well above normal precipitation was observed in the Pacific Northwest, northern California, and central Rockies this month and helped to alleviate drought conditions in a large swath from northern California to western Montana. In central Washington, Wenatchee observed March precipitation totaling 2.29 in (58 mm), 357% of normal and the second wettest in a 58-year record. Northern California received beneficial precipitation as well; Arcata logged 10.48 in (266 mm) this month, 166% of normal and the 4th wettest March since records began in 1945. Following a relatively dry winter and expanding drought conditions, western Wyoming received above normal precipitation. Riverton recorded 2.7 in (69 mm) precipitation, 387% of normal, the 2nd wettest March since records began in 1907. Much of this fell as snow, setting the record for snowiest March at Riverton at 22.1 in (56 cm). Snowpack received a boost across the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, northern and central Rockies, and other ranges across the Northwest, with all but a handful of basins ending the month above normal. Basins south of 40°F N did not fare as well. Sierra Nevada snowpack averaged to 86% of normal at month's end. The southern Rockies were generally <75% of normal, and snowpack across Arizona and New Mexico was <35% of normal, or in many cases non-existent.
  • Dry conditions seen in February persisted across the Southwest this month. No measurable March precipitation was recorded in Albuquerque, New Mexico, or Las Vegas, Nevada. A dry March was observed in Albuquerque 12 other years since 1897, in Phoenix 10 other years since 1933, and in Las Vegas, 16 other years since records began in 1948. Phoenix recorded its 3rd rain-free February/March in 120 years, unusual during a strong El Nino. Southern California was also much drier than normal; San Diego received only 0.76 in (19 mm) of rain, 41% of normal.
  • As during the past two months, March temperatures were above normal throughout Alaska. Average temperature at Fairbanks was 19.8 F (-6.8 C), 8.4 F (4.6 C) above normal and the 6th warmest since records began in 1929. Precipitation was below normal across much of the state, though above normal in the South central region. Anchorage received 1.23 in (31 mm), 205% of normal. Further south, dry conditions associated with El Niño persisted through March in Hawaii. Most stations in the state reported below normal precipitation, including Honolulu, which received only 0.22 in (6 mm), 11% of normal. Drought conditions worsened this month for parts of Big Island, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai and Molokai.
  • As during the past two months, March temperatures were above normal throughout Alaska. Average temperature at Fairbanks was 19.8 F (-6.8 C), 8.4 F (4.6 C) above normal and the 6th warmest since records began in 1929. Precipitation was below normal across much of the state, though above normal in the South central region. Anchorage received 1.23 in (31 mm), 205% of normal. Further south, dry conditions associated with El Niño persisted through March in Hawaii. Most stations in the state reported below normal precipitation, including Honolulu, which received only 0.22 in (6 mm), 11% of normal. Drought conditions worsened this month for parts of Big Island, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai and Molokai.
  • March 11: Flooding and mudslides in northern California: Mudslides associated with heavy rainfall occurred on Highway 1 north of Ft. Bragg, trapping a Caltrans driver responding to a previous slide. Minor flooding and road closures/poor road conditions closed schools in the northern San Francisco Bay Area.
  • March 28: Great Basin snowstorm: Heavy snow associated with a cold "inside slider" storm system caused >30 automobile crashes, school and road closures in Reno NV, where some areas received over 10 in (25 cm) of snow. The Reno airport total of 6.8" (17 cm) tied for the 3rd latest snowfall this large since 1937. Heavy snow also impacted central and eastern NV and southern Idaho, impeding travel.
  • March (all month): California water resources show improvement, though drought persists: On March 13, California's largest reservoir, Lake Shasta, reached its historical average storage for the first time since 2013. On March 21st, the northern California 8-Station Index reached 50.3 inches (1278 mm) for the water year (Oct 1) to-date, the first time since 2011 that the index has been above the water year average of 50 in (1270 mm).
  • For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Overview for March 2016, published online April 2016, retrieved on May 1, 2016 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/?report=hazards.