National Climate Report - March 2008

Maps and Graphics:

March Most Recent 3 Months Most Recent 6 Months
Most Recent 12 Months Year-to-Date US Percent Area Very Wet/Dry/Warm/Cold
Annual Summary for 2007

PLEASE NOTE: All temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data.  The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages.  As final data become available, the most up-to-date statistics and graphics will be available on the Climate Monitoring Products page and the U.S. Climate at a Glance Web site.

For graphics covering periods other than those mentioned above or for tables of national, regional, and statewide data from 1895—present, for March, last 3 months or other periods, please go to the Climate at a Glance page.

[------- visual page separator -------]

National Overview:

Temperature Highlights
  • For the contiguous United States, the average temperature for March was 42°F (6°C), which was 0.4°F (0.2°C) below the 20th century mean and ranked as the 52nd coolest March on record, based on preliminary data.
  • Only three states in the contiguous U.S. were warmer than average for March (Arizona, New Mexico and Rhode Island), while near-average temperatures occurred in 39 states and below average temperatures in seven states.
  • On the Regional level, much of the U.S. experienced near normal temperatures during March. The East North Central and Northwest regions had below average temperatures.
  • Virginia had its second-warmest April-March on record with an average temperature of 57°F (14°C), which is 1.9°F (1°C) above the 20th century average.
  • March 2008 temperatures contrasted sharply with those in March 2007, when record breaking temperatures covered large parts of the nation during the last two weeks of the month. The broad area of near-average temperatures this year kept the nation's overall temperature-related residential energy demand for March near average based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI). For the cold season (October-March), the energy demand was 3.1% below the mean period of record consumption and was the 30th lowest value in 113 years.
Precipitation Highlights
  • This was the 35th wettest March in the 1895—2008 record. An average of 2.6 inches (65 mm) fell across the contiguous U.S. this month, which is 0.2 inches (4 mm) above average.
  • Nine states from Oklahoma to Vermont were much wetter than average for the month, with Missouri having its second wettest March on record. Much of the month's precipitation fell from March 17-20 when an intense storm system moved slowly from the southern Plains through the Central Region. Rainfall amounts in a 48-hour period during this storm totaled 13.84 inches (35.2 cm) in Cape Girardeau, MO and 12.32 inches (31.3 cm) in Jackson, MO. The heavy rainfall, combined with previously saturated ground, resulted in widespread major flooding of rivers and streams from the Missouri Ozarks eastward into southern Indiana.
  • Earlier in the month, from March 7-9, eight to 12 inches of snow fell from Louisville, KY to Cincinnati, OH. In Columbus, an all-time greatest 24-hour snowfall of 15.5 inches (39.4 cm) broke the old record of 12.3 inches (31.2 cm) set on April 4, 1987.
  • Rainfall in the middle of March led to improving drought conditions in much of the Southeast, but at month's end, moderate to extreme drought remained over 59% of the region.
  • In the western U.S., the rainfall pattern in March bore a greater resemblance to a typical La Niña, with especially dry conditions across Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. March was extremely dry in much of California, tying as the driest in 68 years at the Sacramento airport with 0.05 inch (0.13 cm), a 2.75 inch (7.0 cm) departure from average.
Other Items of Note
  • In the Southeast, an EF2 tornado moved through downtown Atlanta on the evening of Friday March 14th, causing significant damage to many buildings, including the Georgia Dome, which was struck while a Southeast Conference (SEC) tournament basketball game was in progress. This was one of 90 tornado reports from the Southeast in March, accounting for 61% of all of the reported March tornadoes in the nation.
  • Snowpack conditions decreased in many parts of the West in March, but in general, heavy snowfall during December 2007-February 2008 has left the western snow pack among the healthiest in more than a decade, with most locations near to above average.
  • Moderate La Niña conditions were present in the tropical Pacific Ocean at the end of March. Equatorial sea-surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean remained below average from west of the Date Line eastward to 120°W. According to the CPC, models are forecasting a continuation of La Niña conditions during the next three months. La Niña conditions may result in drier than normal conditions in the southwestern and south-central U.S., cooler than normal conditions in the north-central U.S., and above average temperatures in the southeastern U.S. over the next three months. For additional information on ENSO conditions, please visit the NCDC ENSO Monitoring page and the latest NOAA ENSO Advisory.
  • Alaska had its 17th warmest March since records began in 1918, with a temperature 3.8°F (2.1°C) above the 1971—2000 average.

  • Alaska had its 41st warmest January—March on record, with a temperature 0.2°F (0.1°C) above the 1971—2000 average.

  • Alaska had its 20th warmest October—March on record, with a temperature 2.2°F (1.2°C) above the 1971—2000 average.

For additional details about recent temperatures and precipitation across the U.S., see the Monthly and Seasonal Highlights section below and visit the March Climate Summary page. For information on local temperature and precipitation records during the month of March, please visit NCDC's Extremes page. For details and graphics on weather events across the U.S. and the globe please visit NCDC's Global Hazards page.

[------- visual page separator -------]

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 | Midwest | Southeast | High Plains | Southern | Western

Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures in the Northeast averaged 1.9°F (1.1°C) below normal in March. This broke the 4-month string of normal or above normal temperatures in the region. It was the 12th coolest March since 1895 in Maine, where temperatures averaged 22.8°F (12.7°C), or 4.2°F (2.3°C) below normal. The warmest states were Rhode Island and Delaware, where the average temperature was 0.7°F (0.4°C) above normal.

  • Precipitation totals in March averaged 138% of normal, making this month the 2nd consecutive with above normal precipitation. Delaware and Maryland were the dry states, with 70% and 78% of the normal March precipitation, respectively. New York (168% of normal) and Vermont (166% of normal) were the wettest states in the region. In addition, it was the 3rd wettest March since 1895 in New York and Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, southeastern Maryland and extreme southern Delaware were still under severe drought conditions at month's end. In stark contrast, the Palmer Drought Severity Index for the period ending March 29, 2008 indicated unusually moist to extremely moist conditions for New England, New York, Pennsylvania, western West Virginia and northern New Jersey. Caribou, ME established two noteworthy records in March. The 5.27 inches (13.39 cm) of precipitation that fell in March topped the previous record of 5.13 inches (13.03 cm) set in 1953. In addition, the station broke their all-time seasonal snowfall record on March 21. On that date, the 2007-2008 total of 184.5 inches (468.6 cm) surpassed the previous record of 181.1 inches (460.0 cm) set during the 1954-55 snowfall season. By the end of the month, the snowfall total at Caribou was 190.7 inches (484.4 cm). Snow records at Caribou began in 1939.

  • March was an active month, weather-wise, in the Northeast. Storms that brought heavy rain and severe weather to the Midwest and Southeast continued to give forecasters headaches as they crashed through the Northeast. The 5th saw strong winds, rain, snow and accumulating ice in the Northeast. Power outages, flooded roads and downed trees were reported from Maryland to upstate New York, where up to a half inch (1.3 cm) layer of ice coated the trees. Snow and rain added to the snow load in New England, causing structural damage and roof collapses, including a section of a roof at a distribution center in Lewiston, ME. Supplies of road salt continued to be a concern, making driving even more hazardous than normal. The weather system that cruised through the region on the 8th and 9th generated damaging winds with gusts from 49.5 mph (79.7 km/h) to 64.4 mph (103.6 km/h). These winds, combined with wet and icy conditions left over 200,000 without power in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. As the system exited the US, it dumped as much as 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain in southern ME and 17 inches (43 cm) of snow in northern ME.
For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures were below normal across the entire Midwest during March, with average daily temperatures ranging from about 1°F (0.6°C) below normal in southern Kentucky to 6°F ( 3.3°C) to 8°F (4.4°C) below normal in central Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The first ten days of March were very cold, with temperatures ranging from more than 12°F (6.7°C) below normal in northern Minnesota to 2°F (1.1°C) below normal in eastern Ohio and southern Kentucky. This general temperature pattern persisted the rest of the month, although the magnitude of the temperature departures was not as great. There were several warmer than normal days during the month, but no prolonged periods of much warmer than normal weather.

  • Precipitation across the northwestern half of the Midwest was well below normal in March, with the exception of northwestern Minnesota. Northern Iowa into northeastern Minnesota, the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin, and eastern Lower Michigan received less than half of the normal March precipitation. Precipitation was two to three times normal across the southern half of Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Indiana, northern Kentucky, and Ohio. A large proportion of that precipitation fell from March 17-20 when an intense storm system crawled through the southern Midwest and northern Gulf States, inundating southeastern Missouri and the lower Ohio Valley. Rainfall amounts in a 48 hour period totaled 13.84 inches (35.2 cm) in Cape Girardeau, MO, 12.32 inches (31.3 cm) in Jackson, MO, and 11.96 inches (30.4 cm) in Anna, IL. Frequent and copious rainfall during the month combined with previously saturated ground resulted in widespread major flooding of rivers and streams from the Missouri Ozarks eastward into southern Indiana.

  • March snowfall was above normal across western Minnesota, northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and from southern Missouri northeast through the Ohio Valley. The largest snowfall in the southern Midwest occurred March 7-9, when a storm produced heavy snow from southwestern Indiana through southern Ohio and northern Kentucky, generally along the Ohio River. Eight to 12 inches (30.5 cm) fell from Louisville, KY to Cincinnati and central Ohio. The snow was heaviest in southern and central Ohio, with amounts of 12 inches (30.5 cm) to more than 14 inches (35.6 cm) recorded from Cincinnati to Columbus, OH. In Columbus, a record 20.5 inches (52.1 cm) of snow fell during the storm, breaking the old record of 15.3 inches (38.9 cm) set on February 17-18, 1910. Columbus also set a record for the all-time greatest 24-hour snowfall with 15.5 inches (39.4 cm), breaking the old record of 12.3 inches (31.2 cm) on April 4, 1987. The storm paralyzed surface and air travel. Ninety percent of the flights at the Port Columbus International Airport were canceled on March 8 because of the storm. Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland closed on March 8, reopening on March 9. There were six deaths in Ohio attributed to the storm.
For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest during March, see the weekly summaries in the MRCC Midwest Climate Watch page.

Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
  • The phrase March Madness is usually reserved for basketball, but in the Southeast it often applies to the weather as well. March is usually one of the most turbulent months, and March 2008 was no exception. Most notable was the rather rare EF2 tornado which moved through downtown Atlanta on the evening of March 14th, 2008, causing significant damage to many buildings. It struck the Georgia Dome while an SEC Basketball game was in progress, raining insulation down on the court. This was one of 90 tornado reports from the Southeast in March, accounting for 61% of all of the reported March tornadoes in the nation. Allowing for some missing or suspect reports in some years, this seems to be the largest occurrence in the last 5 years. March 2008 also seems to have had the highest number of hailstorms and the most reports of property damage caused by high winds in the last five years.

  • On the topic of the ongoing drought in the Southeast, rain in the middle of the month led to the removal of the D4 drought classification in both North and South Carolina, the first time since August, 2007. By month's end, the whole region was out of the D4 category. However, only southern Georgia and northern Florida were not in some form of drought, ranging from abnormally dry in Puerto Rico to extreme drought in portions of the northern states. A series of traveling storms brought highly variable rainfall totals across the region, with some localities centered on western North Carolina receiving 5-10 inches (12.7-25.4 cm) of rain in some areas, helping to fill reservoirs and return some moisture to the soil. However, much of the area had near average rainfall for the month, and some portions of southern Georgia and coastal South Carolina were 1-3 inches (2.5-7.6 cm) below average, so that groundwater recharge was relatively small over much of the area.

  • Variable temperatures are also a characteristic of March weather in the Southeast. This year it was cold enough for snow in Alabama early in the month, and there was a freeze over the Carolinas on the 9th. This was followed by a sunny warm period which covered the whole region by the 13th, only to be followed by a tornado outbreak and record high temperatures of 91°F (33°C) in Miami, Florida during the next two days. Ten days later, Tallahassee, FL reached to a low of 29°F (-2°C), and all states in the region except Puerto Rico had areas below freezing. By the end of March, high temperatures in Naples, Florida returned to 90°F (32°C).
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)
  • March 2008 was an active month for precipitation and temperature in the High Plains region. Temperatures averaged near normal for the region with the exception of warmer than normal temperatures (2-4°F/1-2°C) in northwestern South Dakota and western North Dakota, and cooler than normal average temperatures for portions of the Colorado and Wyoming Rockies (4-8°F/2-4°C) and eastern Nebraska, eastern South Dakota and eastern Kansas (2-4°F/1-2°C).

  • The areas with near or above normal temperatures received between 25-50% of normal precipitation (central High Plains), while the areas with cooler than normal temperatures (eastern Nebraska, eastern South Dakota, eastern Kansas and areas west of the Continental Divide) ranged from near normal to 200% of normal total precipitation for March 2008.

  • Drought conditions persisted over areas of western North and South Dakota as the area received only 10-50% of normal total precipitation. Southwestern Nebraska and northwestern Kansas also saw a U.S. Drought Monitor categorization change from D0 to D1 during this time period.
For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • The month of March was generally associated with near normal temperatures throughout the domain of the Southern Region. For the most part, average temperatures varied less than 2°F (1.1°C) from normal.

  • Unlike temperatures, March precipitation totals in the Southern Region were quite variable, with approximately half the region experiencing above normal totals, and the other half experiencing below normal monthly totals. A large swath of positive precipitation anomalies were observed through the central portion of the region. This swath extended from central Texas and the southeastern corner of Oklahoma, to the northwestern half of Arkansas and western Tennessee. It also included the northernmost counties of Mississippi. Within this area, precipitation values ranged from 150 to 300% of normal for the month. In Arkansas, the Mammoth Spring station received a total of 13.6 inches (340 mm) of precipitation, which equates to 327% of normal. Similarly, Harrison Boone County Airport (AP) recorded a monthly total of 11.8 inches (300 mm), or 276% of normal. In Tennessee, Jackson McKellar AP recorded a monthly total of 10.2 in. (259 mm), which is just shy of twice the monthly normal. Comparatively high precipitation totals were also observed at Memphis Intl AP (9.6 in/244 mm). In Texas, the most impressive monthly precipitation totals occurred at San Angelo Mathis Field, where a total of 4.6 in. (118 mm), or 467% of normal, was received. Similarly, Dallas Ft. Worth AP recorded just over 6 inches (152 mm) of precipitation, or approximately twice the monthly normal. Elsewhere, precipitation totals were generally below normal, with the exception of eastern and central Tennessee, where precipitation was generally within 15% of normal for the month, as well as the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, where monthly totals ranged from 0-50% of normal.

  • On the 2nd of March, a tornado was reported in Eagle City, Oklahoma. There were no reports of damage or injuries. On the following day, wind speeds of 59 miles per hour were reported in Waco, TX. Also, an emergency manager in Tehuacana, Texas reported a 60 mile per hour wind gust along highway 171. That day, nickel-sized hail was reported in Mineral Wells, TX and in Palo Pinto, TX. Two tornadoes were reported in Mississippi, one occurring on the 3rd in Cary and the other on the 4th in Saucier. On the third there were dozens of damaging wind reports covering Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The strong winds took down power lines and trees, and many homes reported damage to their roofs. On the 6th, golf ball-sized hail was reported in Wharton, TX and a possible tornado touched down near Corpus Christi. Two more Texas twisters were reported on the 10th of the month, with one occurring in Odem, TX, and the other in Gregory, Texas. The former was confirmed by local emergency management, while the latter was captured on video by KZTV Television News. On the 13th, dozens of hail reports were reported in an area that covered parts of Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, with hail size ranging from penny to quarter size. Similar conditions were observed in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi on the 14th. Three tornadoes were reported on the 17th of the month, with two occurring in Texas and another in Arkansas. In Texas, tornadoes touched down in Maryneal and Silver Valley. No indication of damage was included in the report. In Arkansas, a tornado was observed in Cherry Hill, and it was mentioned that one home roof top was damaged.
For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures for March 2008 in the West were mostly slightly above normal in the southwest and slightly below normal in the northwest and northern Rockies. Northeastern Montana tended toward slightly warmer than normal. Honolulu, HI, reported their warmest March on record with an average temperature of 77.3°F (25.2°C).

  • Except for isolated pockets in the northern Rockies, precipitation tended to run below normal for the entire region, with some places in the southwest measuring no rain at all for the month. The pattern in March bore a greater resemblance to a typical La Niña, with especially dry conditions across Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. March was extremely dry in much of California, tying as the driest in 68 years at the Sacramento airport with 0.05 inches (0.13 cm), a 2.75 inch (7.0 cm) departure from average. After a snowy winter, the Sierra Nevada snow pack dropped to about 95% of normal by the April 1st survey; only 17 inches (43 cm) of snow fell near Donner Summit for the month. In general, however, the western snow pack is among the healthiest in more than a decade, with most locations at least near average, a few locations showing 80-90 percent of average, and some locations, such as the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, well above average.

  • The Water Year to date (October 2007 through March 2008) has not shown a typical La Niña precipitation pattern (usually dry in the Southwest and wet in the Northwest), but rather shows a number of large pockets of above average and below average precipitation, with parts of the interior West being more favored. It is quite interesting that snow pack percentages have been close to 100% of average in many places, but precipitation percentages have been 10-15% points lower, indicative of a larger than usual ratio of snow to rain. This is also reflected in the temperature pattern for the winter, with cooler than usual conditions reported in many locations. The cooler weather has helped both create and preserve a greater snow pack than in many recent winters.
For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Alaska: (Information provided by Audrey Rubel at NOAA NWS Alaska Region Headquarters.)
  • Generally speaking, the month began warmer than normal across the Alaskan panhandle and remained so for the first 11 days of the month. The middle third of the month was closer to normal for the panhandle in terms of temperatures. The last third of the month saw daytime highs and night time lows trending below normal in most locations with night time lows deviating the farthest below normal. The exceptions to this generality were daytime highs over the central panhandle, which trended slightly above normal up to the 29th of the month. In Fairbanks, the month began with five of the first ten days reporting high temperatures at or above 40°F (4.4°C), one day short of the 6-day record set in 1949. The average high temperature in Fairbanks in March was 28°F (-2.2°C) and the average low 3°F (-16°C), giving a monthly average temperature of 15.4°F (-9.2°C), 4.3°F (2.4°C) above normal. The warmer than normal conditions were due in part to cloudier than usual skies, which helped keep temperatures from falling as low at night. The average monthly temperature in Nome was 9°F (-12.8°C), which is 0.4°F (0.2°C) below normal.

  • Rain and snow were very unevenly distributed during the first three weeks for northern Alaskan panhandle and central panhandle locations with the last week of the month basically dry. Precipitation and snowfall in Fairbanks were very light. The total precipitation of 0.10 inches (.25 cm) was barely one-third of normal, and the total snowfall of 1.4 inches (3.6 cm) was only one-quarter of normal. Total snowfall for the season has been just 40.9 inches (104 cm), nearly two feet less than average. This is the third straight winter with well below normal snowfall in Fairbanks. Total March snowfall in Nome was 10.0 inches (25.4 cm), which is slightly higher than the normal totals for the month of March.

  • Although historical statistics from the last 20 years are still being compiled, March 2008 was clearly an extreme month for sea ice in the Bering Sea. St. Paul Island remained in the sea ice through the month of March. St. George, the southern most Pribilof Island, was in the ice for a total of 18 days during March. The southern extent of the ice near the Pribilof Islands is south of the 0% probability line from the 1983 Alaska Marine Ice Atlas, a reference for climatological sea ice comparisons. Several captains from fishing/crabbing vessels and owners of processing boats called the Anchorage NWS office frequently for ice information to keep their ships out of the way of the ice. By the third week of March, many had decided to stop fishing and go home, hoping to return in early April to resume operations in less icy waters. Ice in Cook Inlet during March ranged between 50% (normal ice conditions) to 75% of the maximum probability ice coverage.

See NCDC's Monthly Extremes web-page for weather and climate records for the month of March. For additional national, regional, and statewide data and graphics from 1895-present, for March, the last 3 months or other periods, please visit the Climate at a Glance page.

[------- visual page separator -------]

PLEASE NOTE: All of the temperature and precipitation ranks and values are based on preliminary data.  The ranks will change when the final data are processed, but will not be replaced on these pages.  Graphics based on final data are provided on the Climate Monitoring Products page and the Climate at a Glance page as they become available.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for March 2008, published online April 2008, retrieved on January 17, 2018 from