National Climate Report - March 2009

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 2008

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.

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National Overview:

Temperature Highlights
  • For the contiguous United States, the average temperature for March was 43.2°F (6.22°C), which was 0.6°F (0.4°C) above the 20th century mean and ranked as the 51st warmest March on record, based on preliminary data.
  • On the regional level, March temperatures was below average across the Northwest, while the Southwest and Central regions was above normal. Temperatures in the South was slightly above average for the month. For the year-to-date period, temperatures in the Southwest ranked among the ten warmest of the 115 such periods on record.
  • Using the Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI - an index developed at NOAA to relate energy usage to climate), the nation's residential energy demand during March was approximately 3.7% below average consumption and ranked as the 41st lowest in 115 years.
Precipitation Highlights
  • This was the 42nd wettest March in the 1895—2009 record. An average of 2.51 inches (63.8 mm) of precipitation fell across the contiguous U.S. this month, which is 0.1 inch (2.8 mm) above average.
  • Three states (Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey) experienced their driest year-to-date period ever. In neighboring states, Pennsylvania recorded its second driest year-to-date period and Connecticut and West Virgnia experienced their fourth and fifth driest, respectively. The below-normal precipitation averages led to the driest ever start to the year for the Northeast region. All year-to-date analyses are based on 115 years worth of data.
Other Items of Note
  • Major flooding threatened or inundated areas along the Minnesota-North Dakota border as the Red River swelled to record and near-record levels during late March. Well-above-normal precipitation during March compounded the flooding potential brought on by extreme precipitation surpluses accumulated during autumn and winter. The six-month precipitation for the October-through-March period was the wettest on record (114 years) for each of the five climate divisions (ND-3, ND-6, MN-1, MN-2, MN-4) that cover most of the Red's drainage basin in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. The combined area of these regions is 50,346 square miles, or roughly the size of Louisiana.
  • Record amounts of snow fell in North Dakota during March. Fargo received 28.1 inches, which was nearly 2 more inches than the previous March record set in 1997. Fargo also recorded 4.62 inches of precipitation which set a new monthly record. Bismarck recorded its second largest March snowfall with a total of 29.7 inches which tied the amount recorded in March of 1950. The all-time monthly record is 33.3 inches, set in December of 2008.
  • La Niña conditions were present, but weak in the tropical Pacific Ocean by the end of March as equatorial sea-surface temperatures remained below average in the eastern Pacific Ocean. According to the Climate Prediction Center (CPC), nearly all of the dynamical and statistical models were forecasting La Niña continuing to weaken in the Northern Hemisphere through spring 2009. These weakening conditions in the Pacific may result in above-normal temperatures in the Southwest, while the Northwest may experience below-normal temperatures along with below-normal precipitation in 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 28th coolest March since records began in 1918, with a temperature 3.0°F (1.7°C) below the 1971—2000 average.

  • Alaska had its 43rd coolest January—March on record, with a temperature 1.2°F (0.6°C) below the 1971—2000 average.

For additional details about recent temperatures and precipitation across the U.S., see the Regional 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.

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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)
  • Northeast temperatures averaged above normal in March, but there were a few areas where temperatures were cooler than normal. Most of Maine and the coastal regions of the Northeast saw temperatures that averaged from 1 to 3 degrees F (0.6 to 1.7°C) below normal. Temperatures were about 1°F (0.6°C) above normal Inland, increasing to 2-3 degrees F (1 to 1.7°C) above normal in southwestern Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

  • On average, the Northeast received below normal precipitation in March. Central and western New York and northeast Pennsylvania were the only regions with above normal precipitation. Totals in these areas were 110 to 200% of normal. Central and southern Pennsylvania, most of New Jersey and portions of Maryland were the driest in the Northeast, with only 25 to 50% of their normal March precipitation totals.

  • Drought conditions expanded to the north during March. The US Drought Monitor issued March 31, 2009 indicated that the southern half of Pennsylvania and all of New Jersey and Delaware were abnormally dry. In West Virginia, most of the state was experiencing abnormally dry conditions. The exceptions were portions of the Central, Southern and Northeastern Climate Divisions, which were in the moderate drought category. Moderate drought conditions were also found in most of central Maryland, with abnormally dry conditions in the rest of the state.

  • A Nor'easter blasted through the region on the 1st and 2nd, dumping 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) of snow in a swath from Maryland to Maine. Windy conditions combined with the heavy snowfall to disrupt travel, down power lines, close the New York City schools for the first time since 2004, and further deplete town, city and state snow removal budgets, especially in New England. According to the March 3 issue of the Boston Globe, several towns in Massachusetts spent 3-4 times their 2009 snow removal budget, while at the state level, snow removal costs were $96.5 million over budget so far this winter. Boston's snow total for the winter season thus far is 25.3 inches (64.3 cm) above the 1971-2000 normal. The 65.9 inch (167.4 cm) total made this season the 7th snowiest in Boston since 1935.
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 2°F to 4°F (1°C to 2°C) above normal in southeastern Missouri, southern and central Illinois, Indiana, and most of Ohio. In northwest Minnesota, temperatures were 2°F to 6°F (1°C to 3°C) colder than normal. Average temperatures were within 2°F (1°C) of normal across the rest of the region. Although the average temperatures were near normal for much of the region, there were big swings in temperature throughout the month. Record cold temperatures on the first couple days of March, 10-20°F (5-10 C) below normal on the 2nd, gave way to record warmth, up to 25°F (14°C) above normal on the 6th, within the week. All nine states had a station set a record low temperature during the first four days of the month. Record high temperatures were set on March 5-10 in every state except Minnesota, which set record highs later in the month. The temperature swings continued with the whole region shifting back and forth between cold and warm several times. Examples of the temperature swings are Jackson, Kentucky and International Falls, Minnesota. Jackson set a record low of 13°F (-11°C) on March 2 and a record high of 77°F (25°C) on March 10. International Falls topped that with a swing from a record low of -28°F (-33°C) on March 12 to a record high of 53°F (12°C) just two days later on March 14.

  • 2.5 to 4 inches (64-102 mm) of precipitation fell in northern and central Minnesota, providing two to four times the normal precipitation for the month. Another swath of above-normal precipitation extended from northwest Missouri and southeast Iowa to southern Michigan and northern Ohio. Records for March monthly precipitation were set at Peoria, Illinois (7.49 inches (190 mm)), Madison, Wisconsin (6.19 inches (157 mm)), Fargo North Dakota (4.62 inches (117 mm)), and International Falls, Minnesota (3.75 inches (95 mm)). New March snowfall records were also set at Fargo, 28.1 inches (714 cm), and International Falls, 30.1 inches (765 cm). In Iowa, the statewide average of snow was 1.4 inches (3.6 cm), making this the least snowy March since 1997 and ranks 15th least snow for the month among 122 years of records. Less than normal precipitation fell from southeast Missouri to the southern two thirds of Ohio and also from northwest Iowa to northern Michigan. Drought conditions continued in southeast Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan while abnormally dry conditions emerged in southern Ohio.

  • Red River flooding set a new record crest of 40.82 feet at Fargo, North Dakota. Major flooding also occurred up and down stream on the Red River and on its tributaries. Neighborhoods and businesses were evacuated in Fargo and across the river in Moorhead, Minnesota. Sandbagging to increase the height of the levees in Fargo and Moorhead was largely successful, thus avoiding more extensive damage. Two winter storms swept across Minnesota in March bringing double digit snow falls on March 9-11 and March 30-April 1. The Lake Superior shoreline from Duluth northward was hit by freezing rain on March 23-24. Ice accumulations in excess of an inch (25 mm) were wide spread leading to tree damage and power outages. The southern part of the region experienced severe weather during the month. Tornadoes occurred on March 8 in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Iowa was hit by five tornadoes on March 23.
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)
  • Mean temperatures for March 2009 were close to normal across most of the region. Temperatures were slightly below normal across southeastern Virgina, much of North Carolina and South Carolina as well as portions of Georgia and Florida. Temperatures were slightly above normal across Alabama, much of Florida, and small portions of the Carolinas and Virginia. In Puerto Rico, temperatures were slightly below normal. There was much variability in temperatures during the month as is commonly the case in March. The coldest temperatures were observed during the first couple of days of the month as a modified arctic mass settled behind a strong system that dropped snowfall across portions of the region. Several locations in Virgina and North Carolina recorded all time record low temperatures for the month. Richmond, Virgina, for example, registered a minimum temperature of 10°F (12°C) on both the 3rd and 4th of the month breaking the all-time March record minimum of 11°F (31°C) set in 1943. Tallahassee, Florida dropped to 26°F (-3°C) on the 4th. This was sixth time in which sub-freezing air settled across northern Florida since the beginning of the winter. A rapid warm up ensued across much of the region after the cold snap. Daily maximum temperatures soared into the 80's across much of the region on various days between the 8th and 12th of the month. Columbia, South Carolina and Jacksonville, North Carolina recorded a maximum temperature of 88°F (31°C) during this period.

  • Precipitation totals for March were quite variable across the region. Precipitation was less than 50% of normal across much of central and southern Florida, portions of South Carolina, southeastern North Carolina and northern Virginia. Naples, Florida recorded only 0.28 inches (7 mm) of precipitation for the month, making it the 13th driest February in a record extending back 64 years. Tifton, Georgia and Washington, DC received 1.47 inches (37 mm) and 1.97 inches (50 mm), which was 29% and 55% of the normals, respectively for the month. Most of Puerto Rico experienced above normal precipitation totals for the month. Juncos in the eastern interior of PR recorded 9.01 inches (228 mm) of rain, which was more than 6 inches above normal. A broad region of above normal precipitation totals was observed across the southern half of Alabama and much of Georgia; smaller portions of northeastern North Carolina and southeastern and southwestern Virginia as well as southeastern and northern Florida also recorded above normal precipitation totals for the month. Crestview, in the western panhandle of Florida, received 14.86 inches (377 mm) of precipitation for the month, which was 7.68 inches (195 mm) above normal. Heavy rainfalls between the 26th and 28th of the month contributed substantially to the monthly totals across western northern Florida and southern Georgia. Crestview, Florida and Albany, Georgia recorded 9.57 inches (243 mm) and 6.03 inches (153 mm) of rainfall, respectively, during this 3-day period. Heavy precipitation was also observed on the first day of the month across much of Georgia and portions of the Carolinas. This precipitation was connected with a complex weather system that had already produced much rainfall across Alabama and Georgia during the last days of February. The rainfall turned over to heavy snowfall on the western edges of the storm resulting in substantial accumulations in regions that typically see very little snow. Columbus, Georgia and Anderson, South Carolina reported 6.5 inches (165 mm) and 5.0 inches (127 mm) of snow, respectively. The heavy wet snow combined with strong winds and wet soils to down trees and cause power outages across portions of northern Georgia and northwestern South Carolina. The system traveled northeastward producing a broad swath of heavy snow across the western half of North Carolina and Virginia. Shelby North Carolina and Lynchburg, Virginia both reported snowfall totals of nearly 10 inches (254 mm).

  • The extreme drought (D3) conditions persisting across extreme northeast Georgia and northwest South Carolina was reduced to severe drought (D2) as a result of three significant precipitation events during the month. This marked the first time in two years in which the entire southeastern region was free of extreme (D3) and exceptional (D4) drought. Severe drought (D2) conditions persisted across portions of central and southern Florida. Moderate drought conditions continued across northern Virginia, western North Carolina, eastern Georgia, and portions of Florida. Several clusters of severe thunderstorms were observed between the 26th and 28th of the month. Several tornadoes were reported across Florida on the 26th and 27th, eastern North Carolina on the 27th and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama on the 28th.
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)
  • In March the majority of the High Plains region was near normal with the monthly average temperature departures ranging from 2°F (1.1°C) below normal to 2°F (1.1°C) above normal. Warmer pockets of the region were in western, central, and southern Colorado, southern Wyoming, and western Kansas where monthly temperature departures ranged from 2°F to 6°F (1.1°C to 3.3°C) above normal. North Dakota and northern South Dakota were the cold areas in the region with average temperatures that were well below normal. Most of North Dakota recorded average temperatures that ranged from 4°F to 10°F (2.2°C to 5.5°C) below normal, however this cold weather was not record breaking.

  • The big story this month was in eastern North Dakota, where record precipitation coupled with warm temperatures led to record breaking flooding along the Red River. On March 28, the Red River at Fargo crested at 40.82 feet. This breaks the old record of 40.1 feet recorded April 7, 1897. Contributing to the flooding is the record precipitation that occurred across eastern North Dakota. Fargo, ND is this month's "extreme" location which recorded both the wettest and snowiest March on record. The Hector International Airport in Fargo received 4.62 inches (117.35 mm) of liquid equivalent precipitation, or 395% of normal precipitation. This shattered the previous record of 2.83 inches (71.88 mm) recorded in 1882. A record snowfall of 28.1 inches (71.37 cm) fell at the Fargo Hector International Airport which broke the old record of 26.2 inches (66.55 cm) set in 1997.

  • March 2009 was an active month with several intense low pressure systems crossing the region. Interesting events include record flooding on the Red River in North Dakota, tornadoes in eastern Nebraska, and numerous blizzards which affected each state in the region. Major flooding occurred along the Red River in North Dakota. Factors leading to this event include record breaking precipitation and snowfall. The record setting stage at Fargo was 40.82 feet and occurred March 28 (at the Fargo location, any stage above 18 feet is considered flood stage for the Red River). The previous record was 40.1 feet which was set April 7, 1897. In more recent times, the second highest crest occurred in 1997 at 39.57 feet. Many residents were evacuated from the area and schools, universities, and businesses closed to help out with the sandbagging effort. A cold air intrusion slowed the flooding at the end of the month, however, a secondary crest is expected to occur in April and current forecasts indicate that this crest may top the newly set record.

  • A fast moving supercell produced five tornadoes in eastern Nebraska on March 23. Two EF1 tornadoes and one EF2 tornado were confirmed in Lancaster County. Two additional EF1 tornadoes were confirmed in Cass County. Eight injuries were reported and preliminary damage estimates for the tornadoes is less than $100,000.

  • A late March blizzard dumped one to two feet of snow across Colorado and Kansas. Strong winds and heavy snow combined to create blizzard conditions in some areas March 27-28. This blizzard set the 6th greatest 24-hour snowfall total for Dodge City, Kansas, with 12.5 inches (31.75 cm). In addition to the heavy snow, some portions of southeastern Kansas had significant ice accumulations. Power outages were widespread.
For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • With the exception of the central portions, mean temperatures in the Southern Region were generally above normal during the month of March. The warmest areas in the region were observed in western and northwestern Texas, where mean temperatures averaged 3-6° F (1.5-3 ° C) above the monthly normal. Similar values were also observed in central and southern Oklahoma and in southeastern Louisiana. In the central area of the southern region, mean monthly temperatures were only slightly (0-2° F (0-1 °C)) below normal for the month, while elsewhere, mean temperatures averaged only a couple (1 °C) degrees above normal.

  • In contrast to the past two months, much of the southern half of the Southern Region experienced near to above normal precipitation totals. Many counties in Central Texas, for example, received between two and four times the monthly allotment. Similar values were also observed in southern Mississippi, however; much of that rainfall was received in the final week of the month. During that week, much of southern Mississippi received over 5 inches (127 mm) of rainfall over approximately 4 to 5 rain days. In fact, stations in the coastal areas of the state received as much as 9-10 inches (229 mm-254 mm) of rainfall. Throughout much of southern Arkansas and northern Mississippi, precipitation totals for the month were within the normal range. This was also the case in northeastern Oklahoma. By contrast, northern and southern Texas observed precipitation totals that fell well below the normal range. In the northern Texas panhandle, most stations only reported approximately 25 to 50% of normal precipitation. It was slightly drier in the southernmost regions of the state, with many stations reporting only 5 to 50% of normal rainfall. Similar totals were also observed in the northern counties of the western Texas panhandle, and in the south central counties of Oklahoma. In Tennessee, precipitation totals were generally within the normal range, except for in the eastern counties, and in the north central part of the state, where most stations reported between 50 to 75% of normal precipitation.

  • The spatially variable pattern of March precipitation has had both a positive and negative impact on drought conditions within the Southern Region. Steady and above normal precipitation in Louisiana and southern Mississippi has helped to eradicate the moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions that existed there last month. Similarly, near normal precipitation in south central Tennessee has led to the removal of abnormally dry conditions there. In Oklahoma, dry conditions in the western counties resulted in a one category deterioration from moderate to severe drought. In addition, the two panhandles of Texas also observed a one category deterioration to moderate drought conditions. This was also the case in the southernmost counties of the state, where precipitation totals were well below normal for the month. Although many portions of central Texas observed above normal rainfall during March, it was not sufficient to provide much improvement to the drought conditions that have persisted there for approximately one year.

  • As the climate in the Southern Region shifts into spring, severe weather events were enhanced during the month of March. Many of the severe weather reports consisted of the typical spring events that are commonly associated with southern climate. Specifically, there were dozens of wind and small hail reports, along with twisters that touched down briefly in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. On the 25th of the month, an EF1 rated tornado touched down in Meridian, MS, clocking winds in the 90-95 mph range. Major damage but no injuries were reported. According to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, the tornado destroyed a few homes and damaged many others. On the same day, in Loyal Valley, TX, golf ball to baseball-sized hail stones were reported. The following day, more twisters ripped through Mississippi. Near Magee, MS, a tornado caused major damage with injuries. The National Weather Service confirmed that this was an EF3 rated tornado. In total, three tornadoes touched down in Madison County, with the other two being EF1 and EF0 rated. Several homes were damaged and the Governor declared a state of emergency for 9 counties in the state. According to WDSU News, a total of 60 homes were damaged in the storms and at least 20 people were injured. In Baton Rouge, straight line winds on the 26th damaged many portions of the Louisiana State University campus. For instance, damage was reported at the newly opened Alex Box baseball facility and the newly opened Tiger Park softball facility. The soccer complex suffered the most damage, with bleachers being tossed onto the soccer pitch. Several building on campus sustained some minor damage and approximately 50 vehicles were damaged by falling limbs and heavy winds that carried debris.
For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Regional Climate Center)
  • Temperatures were mostly below normal in the northern half of the West and above normal in the southern half. California was a mixed bag. Parts of the Pacific Northwest and eastern Montana were 5-6°F (3-4 deg°C) below normal for the month. Seattle recorded their coolest March in 33 years, and 15th cooler than normal month out of the last 19 months. Up through 2007 March had been showing a significant warming trend in most of the West. In Hawaii, Hilo recorded their coolest March ever while Lihue had their lowest average maximum temperature ever for March.

  • Except for northern Idaho, western Montana and portions of Wyoming, most of the West had a drier than normal March. Although a strong storm hit California during the first 4 days of the month producing heavy rain and snow, most locations had monthly totals well below average. An important exception was the northern Sierra, which saw precipitation and snowfall totals of up to 115% of normal, increasing the snowpack from 70% of normal at the beginning of the month to 80% by the end of the month. The Eight-Station Index used for tracking input to the California State Water Project ended the month at 8.2 inches (208 mm), 119 percent of average. Except for the Southwest, the rest of the West is near or slightly above normal on the April 1st snow surveys. Although the southwest was extremely dry, Albuquerque measured 0.24 inches (6.1 mm) on the 9th, breaking a 72-day string of no-precipitation days, their 8th longest such spell. Seattle continued with their unusually snowy winter and up until March 26th had measured more snowfall for the winter season (20.3 inches; 51.3 cm) than Denver's 19.1 inches (49.0 cm). Nome, AK, recorded their snowiest March on record, which followed their snowiest February on record. This led to the second greatest snow depth ever recorded, 78 inches (198.1 cm)on the 12th.

  • During the first 4 days of the month, heavy rain and snow in California. One of the more powerful storms of the winter hit California during the first 4 days of March. Heavy rain and localized flooding occurred in the northern half of the state with one location north of Redding measuring over 10 inches (254 mm) of rain in two days. Up to six feet of snow fell in higher elevations of the Sierra near Lake Tahoe. This storm closed Interstate 80 over the Sierra for 76 miles for a time on the evening of the third.

  • On March 16 local flood in Redding, California. Up to 4 inches of rain fell in 4 hours in very localized areas near Redding causing one fatality and numerous accidents.

  • March 26 brought heavy snow along Front Range of Colorado. Up to 15 inches (150 cm) of snow along Colorado's Front Range cancelled hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport and caused a 40 car pile-up on Interstate 25 near the Colorado/Wyoming border.
For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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.

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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 2009, published online April 2009, retrieved on January 23, 2018 from