National Climate Report - March 2017
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
- Climate Highlights — March
March Average Temperature Departures
March Percent of Average Precipitation
- The average contiguous U.S. temperature during March was 46.2°F, 4.7°F above the 20th century average, and ranked as the ninth warmest on record.
- Most of the West, Great Plains and parts of the Midwest and Southeast were warmer than average. Thirteen states were much warmer than average, with Colorado and New Mexico being record warm. The Colorado statewide average temperature was 42.5°F, 8.8°F above average, while the New Mexico temperature was 51.4°F, 7.9°F above average.
- Near- to below-average temperatures were observed across the Great Lakes and from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. The coldest temperatures, relative to average, were observed across New England. Following the record warm February in the Northeast, some locations had March temperatures that were colder than February — an unusual, but not unprecedented occurrence.
- The Alaska statewide average temperature was 4.1°F, 6.7°F below average. This was the 12th coldest March in the 93-year record for the state and coldest since 2007. This ended Alaska's stretch of 17 consecutive months, beginning in October 2015, of an above-average statewide temperature.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 57.8°F, 4.8°F above the 20th century average, the 11th warmest on record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed across most of the West, Great Plains, and the Southeast. New Mexico had a record warm maximum temperature for March. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed in the Northwest and the Northeast.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during March was 34.5°F, 4.5°F above the 20th century average, the eighth warmest on record. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most locations across the country, with the exception of the East Coast. Much-above-average minimum temperatures were observed in the West and Great Plains where Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming had record warm nights. Below-average minimum temperatures were observed in the Northeast.
- During March there were 5,494 record warm daily high (2,690) and low (2,804) temperature records, which is more than three times the 1,779 record cold daily high (1,168) and low (611) temperature records.
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 27 percent below average and the 24th lowest value in the 123-year period of record.
- The March precipitation total was 2.56 inches, 0.05 inch above the 20th century average, and ranked near the middle of the 123-year period of record.
- Locations from the Northwest through the Northern Rockies, Central Plains and Midwest were wetter than average, with Idaho, Oregon and Washington having much-above-average precipitation. The above-average precipitation in the Plains and Midwest was accompanied by severe weather outbreaks including damaging tornadoes. Abundant snowfall earlier in the season from California to the Central Rockies, combined with above-average March precipitation across the Northwest and Northern Rockies, resulted in above-average snowpack at most mountain locations on April 1st.
- Below-average precipitation was observed in parts of the Southwest, Northern Plains and along the East Coast. Florida and Georgia had much-below-average precipitation during March.
- Alaska had its fifth driest March on record with 1.16 inches of precipitation, 1.00 inch below average. Record dryness was observed across the southern parts of the state.
- According to an analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 660,000 square miles, 81,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average and the 19th smallest in the 51-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across parts of the Northeast, Mid-west, and Northwest. Below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Great Basin and the Great Plains.
- According to the March 28 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 14.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up 0.1 percent compared to the end of February. Drought improved across some areas of the West, Mid-South, and Northeast. Drought conditions expanded on Hawaii's Big Island. Drought conditions also developed and intensified across parts of the Central and Southern Plains and Southeast, where warm, windy and relatively dry conditions increased wildfire danger, with 2 million acres burning during the month. This was nearly seven times the 2000-2010 average and more than 600,000 acres above the previous record set in 2006.
- Climate Highlights — year-to-date(January-March)
Dec-Mar Average Temperature Departures
Jan-Mar Percent of Average Precipitation
- The year-to-date contiguous U.S. average temperature was 40.3°F, 5.1°F above average. This was the second warmest January-March on record, behind the record of 41.4°F set in 2012.
- Above-average temperatures spanned the nation with only the Northwest being colder than average. Thirty-eight states were much warmer than average during January-March with six states — Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas — record warm.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-March was 50.9°F, 4.8°F above the 20th century average, the third warmest on record. Only during the January-March periods in 2000 and 2012 were maximum temperatures warmer. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed for most locations from the Rockies to East Coast. Georgia, Oklahoma, and South Carolina had record warm maximum temperatures for the first quarter of 2017. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed in the Northwest.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during January-March was 29.7°F, 5.5°F above the 20th century average, the second only to 2012. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most locations across the country, with the exception of the Northwest. Seven states in the Southern Rockies, Southern Plains and Lower-Mississippi Valley had record warm minimum temperatures.
- Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-March was 80 percent below average and the second lowest value in the 123-year period of record.
- The year-to-date contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 8.09 inches, 1.10 inches above average. This ranked as the 10th wettest January-March on record and wettest since 1998.
- Above-average precipitation spanned most of the West into the Great Plains and Great Lakes. Seven Western states, in addition to Michigan, had year-to-date precipitation totals that were much above average. Below-average precipitation was observed for the Mid- and Lower-Mississippi River Valley and along the Southeast Coast.
- In the first three months of 2017 there have been five weather and climate disaster events with losses exceeding one billion each across the United States. These events included a flooding event, a freeze event, and three severe storm events collectively causing 37 fatalities.
- The number of billion-dollar events for January-March (5) is the largest number of first-quarter events in the 1980-present period of record and doubles the average number of events for January-March over the last 5 years (2.4 events).
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was the highest value on record at more than double the average. On the national scale, extremes in warm daytime and nighttime temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, days with precipitation, and the spatial extent of drought 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 United States.
- Regionally, the CEI was much above average in the Ohio Valley, Southeast, and Southwest. A record high CEI value for the first quarter of 2017 was observed in the Upper Midwest and South. In each of these regions, the spatial extent of extremely warm maximum and minimum temperatures was above average. In the Upper Midwest, the spatial extent of wet conditions was the second highest on record. In the South, one-day precipitation extremes were record high.
- Climate Highlights — cold season (October 2016-March 2017)
Oct-Mar Average Temperature Departures
Oct-Mar Percent of Average Precipitation
- The contiguous U.S. average temperature for the cold season was 43.3°F, 4.2°F above average. This was the second warmest October-March on record, only marginally cooler than the record warm cold season that occurred just last year.
- Above-average temperatures spanned the nation with only the Northwest being colder than average. Forty-three states were much warmer than average during October-March with 12 states across the southern tier, from the Rockies to Florida, being record warm.
- 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. Only during the October-March periods in 2000 and 2012 were maximum temperatures warmer. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed for most locations from the Rockies to East Coast, in addition to the Southwest. Twelve states from the Southern Rockies to Florida had a record warm maximum temperature for the cold season.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during October-March was 32.4°F, 4.5°F above the 20th century average, the second only to 2015-16. Above-average minimum temperatures were observed for most locations across the country, with the exception of the Northwest. Eight states in the Southern Rockies, Southern Plains and Lower-Mississippi Valley had record warm minimum temperatures.
- Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during the cold season was 85 percent below average and the third lowest value in the 122-year period of record.
- The cold season contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 15.04 inches, 1.34 inches above average. This ranked as the 22nd wettest October-March on record.
- Above-average precipitation spanned most of the West into the Northern Plains and Great Lakes. Seven Western states had year-to-date precipitation totals that were much above average. Wyoming had its wettest cold season on record with 10.13 inches of precipitation, 3.61 inches above average. This bested 9.92 inches in 1898-99.
- Below-average precipitation was observed the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic, and parts of the Midwest. Delaware, Florida, and Maryland had cold-season precipitation totals that were much below average.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the cold season was record high at nearly 2.5 times the average. On the national scale, extremes in warm daytime and nighttime temperatures, one-day precipitation totals, and the spatial extent of wet conditions were much above average.
- Regionally, the CEI was much above average for all regions except the Northern Rockies and Plains and the Northeast. Extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures contributed to the above-average CEI in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, Ohio Valley, Southeast, South, Southwest, and West. In the Northeast extremes in days with precipitation was above average. In the Upper Midwest, extremes in the spatial extent of we conditions was above average. In the South, extremes in one-day precipitation totals were above average while in the West days with precipitation was above average.
**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.**
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 Centers for Environmental Information.
- Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
- For ten consecutive months the Northeast averaged out to be warmer than normal, but March brought an end to that streak. For the first time since April 2016, the Northeast's average monthly temperature was colder than normal. The region's March average temperature of 31.8 degrees F (-0.1 degrees C), 2.6 degrees F (1.4 degrees C) below normal, was also 1.0 degree F (0.6 degrees C) colder than February 2017. Eleven of the twelve Northeast states were colder than normal, with temperatures ranging from 4.7 degrees F (2.6 degrees C) below normal in New Hampshire and Vermont to 0.6 degrees F (0.3 degrees C) below normal in Maryland. West Virginia was the only warmer-than-normal state at 0.3 degrees F (0.2 degrees C) above normal.
- The Northeast wrapped up March with near-normal precipitation. The region received 3.45 inches (87.63 mm) of precipitation, which was 99 percent of normal. Seven states were drier than normal, with precipitation ranging from 75 percent of normal in Massachusetts and Rhode Island to 99 percent of normal in Vermont. New Jersey received 100 percent of its normal March precipitation, while precipitation for the four wetter-than-normal states ranged from 101 percent of normal in Delaware to 112 percent of normal in Pennsylvania.
- Abnormally dry and drought conditions lingered but improved for much of the Northeast during March. The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 2 indicated 27 percent of the Northeast was in a moderate, severe, or extreme drought, with another 20 percent being abnormally dry. In early March, the Northeast became free of extreme drought for the first time since early August 2016. Severe drought eased in New York, New Jersey, and portions of Maryland and New England. Moderate drought improved in Delaware and parts of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. Abnormal dryness eased in portions of New England, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. The only expansion of dry conditions during the month occurred in two small areas of eastern West Virginia. The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 30 indicated 15 percent of the Northeast was in a moderate or severe drought, with another 18 percent being abnormally dry. March average streamflow was near to below normal for a majority of the Northeast, with the lowest flows found in portions of eastern West Virginia, southern New Jersey, New York's Long Island, and southern New England. Groundwater and reservoir levels increased during March, returning to near normal in some areas, but remaining below normal in other areas. New Britain, Connecticut's reservoir system increased to nearly 50 percent of capacity by early March, allowing the city to stop purchasing water from another source. Connecticut's Department of Public Health issued a second water supply emergency for Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, and Stamford. The order continued the irrigation ban that was previously enacted, but allowed for a few specific outdoor water uses. According to a press release from Aquarion Water Company, "This new order helps increase the likelihood of refilling the Greenwich and Stamford reservoir systems." The Department also requested that water systems serving over 1,000 customers monitor groundwater data weekly and submit their results monthly. Worcester, Massachusetts' drought status improved from a Drought Warning to a Drought Alert effective March 10. The city's reservoir system was 10 percent below average capacity on March 1. The Connecticut River Valley and southeastern Massachusetts improved to a Drought Watch, while the western and central regions improved to a Drought Advisory. Central Maryland worsened to a Drought Warning, while Eastern Maryland went from normal status to a Drought Watch.
- A storm system produced severe thunderstorms in the Northeast on March 1. Straight-line winds of up to 100 mph (45 m/s) damaged buildings and downed trees and wires. A lightning strike left a hole in one of the runways at LaGuardia Airport in New York, forcing the runway to be closed for about an hour and a half and compiling weather-related delays. Snow squalls contributed to several large multiple-vehicle accidents on March 3 in Pennsylvania. Interstate 80 in Clinton County was shut down for about 17 hours due to two crashes involving 45 vehicles. More than 30 vehicles piled up on Interstate 81 in Schuylkill County, sending more than 20 people to the hospital and killing one. On Interstate 99 in Centre County, there were two accidents involving 40 vehicles. On March 8, hurricane-force winds caused damage in western New York. An 81-mph (36 m/s) gust was recorded at Rochester Airport, while gusts of 76 mph (34 m/s) and 75 mph (33.5 m/s) were reported near Batavia and Hamburg, respectively. Trees, power poles, and wires were knocked down, blocking roads and leaving more than 200,000 customers without power. The strong winds caused damage to homes, schools, and businesses, as well as tipped over several tractor-trailers and twelve cars of a freight train. From March 14 to 15, a powerful nor'easter impacted the Northeast. Snow totals in the hardest hit areas ranged from 2 to 4 feet (0.6 to 1.2 m). Preliminary data indicated that the highest storm total was 48.4 inches (122.9 cm) in Hartwick, New York. Binghamton, New York set a new all-time 24-hour snowfall record, picking up 31.3 inches (79.5 cm) from 3 am on March 14 to 1 am on March 15. The old record of 23 inches (58 cm) was set in February 1961. With a season-to-date (October 1 through March 16) snow total of 131.9 inches (335 cm), the 2016-17 season (ends May 31) became the snowiest on record for Binghamton. Last year, the site had its least snowy season on record with 32.0 inches (81.3 cm) of snow. Scranton, Pennsylvania, had its all-time snowiest day on record with 22.1 inches (56.1 cm) on March 14, beating its old record of 18.7 inches (47.5 cm) set on March 13, 1993. Williamsport, Pennsylvania and Burlington, Vermont ranked March 14 among their top five all-time snowiest days on record. The 14th was the snowiest March day on record for four major climate sites and ranked among the top five snowiest March days on record at eight additional sites. Atlantic City, New Jersey received 3.02 inches (76.71 mm) of precipitation (almost all of which fell as rain) on March 14, making it the site's wettest March day on record. Strong winds, hurricane-force in some areas, accompanied the storm. For instance, preliminary data indicated a gust of 79 mph (35 m/s) in Wellfleet, Massachusetts and blizzard conditions occurred for four hours in Lawrence, Massachusetts. The winds downed trees and power lines, contributed to thousands of power outages, and caused rough seas that led to some erosion and coastal flooding. Travel was hampered by the storm, with several travel bans enacted in the region and thousands of flights cancelled nationwide. In northeastern Pennsylvania, at least two small avalanches blocked roads.
- For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
- March precipitation in the Midwest was a mix of above-normal and below-normal areas. Large parts of Minnesota and smaller parts of western Wisconsin and Upper Michigan had totals of less than 50 percent of normal. Other areas with below-normal totals were primarily in the southern third of the region. Totals that topped twice the normal amounts were scattered across the region with many across northern Illinois and southern Michigan. Stations in these areas which set new March precipitation totals included Niles, Michigan (1944-2017), Bloomington, Michigan (1905-2017), and Joliet Brandon Road Dam in Illinois (1944-2017). Daily precipitation records, more than 450 in total, were also broken across the region in March. March snowfall fell primarily in the northern half of the region with much of the snow falling in an event on March 12-13.
- March temperatures were near-normal to slightly above-normal in the Midwest. The southern half of the region was slightly above normal while the northern half was near normal. For the region as a whole, temperatures averaged 37.9 degrees F (3.3 C) which was 1.2 degrees F (0.7 C) above normal. The month ranked tied for the 34th warmest on record (1895-2017). Temperatures were above normal in the first and last 10 days of the month with much below normal temperatures in the intervening days. With the swings in temperatures, hundreds of daily records were set for both record highs (498 records tied or set) and record lows (279 records tied or set) in March. The records were spread across the region for both extremes.
- Severe weather was reported in each Midwest state except Michigan during March. Reports of severe weather came on 18 days during the month with high winds reported on 10 days, large hail on 13 days, and tornadoes on 7 days. March 1st had several EF-1 and EF-2 tornadoes in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. More than a dozen tornadoes, including several of EF-2 or EF-3 strength, touched down across five states in the western half of the Midwest on the 6th. Hail and brief tornados stretched across southern Missouri and western Kentucky on the 9th. The last 10 days of March brought large hail, strong winds, and more tornadoes. Northern Iowa and southern Wisconsin were hit with large hail on the 23rd. A tornado touched down in southwestern Ohio on the 26th. A mix of severe weather hit Kentucky on the 27th. A slow moving system spread severe weather from Missouri to Ohio on the 29th and 30th.
- On March 8th, strong non-convective winds brought wind gusts in excess of 50 miles per hour (80 km per hour) to southeastern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and Lower Michigan. The winds toppled trees, downed powerlines, and overturned semi-trucks on area interstate highways. Two fatalities were reported in southern Michigan where a tree fell on a vehicle. In Wisconsin, a man was thrown from his semi-truck while trying to close the door and was injured. A plane carrying the University of Michigan basketball team was forced to abort a takeoff attempt from Willow Run Airport near Ann Arbor, Michigan. The plane ran off the runway and crashed through a security fence but there were no serious injuries. Strong winds were a focus of the investigation.
- Drought areas in March accounted for 10 to 15 percent of the region during March. The areas in drought were largely contained in Missouri, southwestern Illinois, and southeastern Iowa. A small area in central Missouri was classified as severe drought during the month.
- 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 near average across much of the Southeast region (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) during March, except for portions of Alabama, Georgia, and the Florida Panhandle where mean temperature departures were 3 to 5 degrees F (1.7 to 2.8 degrees C) above average. However, no long-term (i.e., period of record equaling or exceeding 50 years) stations across the region observed March mean temperatures that were ranked within their top 5 warmest values on record. An exceptional persistence of unusual daytime warmth was observed at a few locations. Pensacola, FL (1880-2017) tied its second highest count of 11 days during March with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C), while Mobile, AL (1873-2017) observed its third highest count of 13 days during March with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F. From the 24th through the 31st, Augusta, GA (1875-2017) tied its second longest streak of 8 days during March with a maximum temperature at or above 80 degrees F. Despite the lack of monthly temperature extremes across the region, periods of unseasonably warm and cold temperatures occurred during March. The warmest weather of the month occurred on the 21st, as warm, moist air surged northeastward ahead of a cold front. Daily maximum temperatures exceeded 80 degrees F across much of the region, with a few locations in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina reaching 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C). Charleston, SC (1938-2017) and Birmingham, AL (1896-2017) tied their highest and second highest daily maximum temperature on record for March, at 90 and 89 degrees F (31.7 degrees C), respectively. On the 22nd, Pensacola, FL (1880-2017) observed its highest daily maximum temperature on record for March, at 90 degrees F. This was also the earliest observation of 90 degrees F or higher for Pensacola, with the previous record occurring one month later in the year (April 22, 1987). In contrast, the coldest weather of the month occurred from the 14th through the 17th, as an Arctic high pressure system ushered in unseasonably cold air from the northwest. Daily minimum temperatures fell below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) as far south as northern Florida, and hard freeze conditions (i.e., air temperature at or below 28 degrees F [-2.2 degrees C] for at least 4 consecutive hours) were observed across much of the region, primarily from central Georgia to northern Virginia. During this four-day period, some of the stations that recorded the most consecutive hours at or below 28 degrees F were Asheville, NC (19 hours), Roanoke, VA (18 hours), Valdosta, GA (7 hours), Huntsville, AL (6 hours), Charleston, SC (6 hours), and Crestview, FL (5 hours).
- Precipitation was below normal across much of the Southeast, with several extremes recorded. The driest locations were found across much of Florida as well as portions of coastal and southeastern Alabama, central and southern Georgia, and the southern half of South Carolina. Monthly precipitation totals ranged from 5 to 50 percent of normal in these areas. At least 17 long-term stations in Georgia and Florida observed March precipitation totals that were ranked within the five lowest values on record, including Orlando, FL (0.10 inch; 2.5 mm), Savannah, GA (0.50 inch; 12.7 mm), and Alma, GA (0.54 inch; 13.7 mm). Brunswick Airport, GA (1949-2017) observed its highest count of 29 days during March with no measurable precipitation, while Jasper, FL (1951-2017) and Punta Gorda 4 ESE, FL (1966-2017) tied their highest count of 30 and 29 days during March, respectively, with no measurable precipitation. In contrast, the wettest locations across the mainland portion of the region were found in localized areas of Upstate South Carolina as well as western and northeastern North Carolina. Monthly precipitation totals were 150 to 200 percent of normal in these areas. On the 21st, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (1890-2017) observed its third wettest March day on record, with 3.90 inches (99.1 mm) of precipitation. On the 12th, measurable snowfall was observed primarily across a broad swath of the Carolinas, with the greatest statewide totals of 5.9 inches (150 mm) at Tuckasegee 4.2 E, NC and 3.7 inches (94.0 mm) in Pageland, SC. Columbia USC, SC (1955-2017) and Wilmington, NC (1875-2017) recorded their first measurable March snowfall since 1980 and 1983, with 0.5 inch and 1.1 inches (27.9 mm), respectively. From the 13th through the 14th, a rapidly intensifying coastal cyclone produced snowfall in an area extending from the northern Georgia mountains to northern Virginia. Some of the greatest snowfall totals were observed in portions of northern Virginia and the Washington, D.C. area, including 9.1 inches (231 mm) at Winchester 9.4 NW, VA, 5.6 inches (142 mm) at Washington Dulles International Airport, VA, and 3.1 inches (78.7 mm) at National Zoo 1 WSW, D.C. Precipitation was well above normal across much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with monthly totals ranging from 150 to 600 percent of normal. Aibonito 1 S, PR (1906-2017) and Christiansted Airport, USVI (1951-2017) observed their wettest March on record, with 11.45 and 6.40 inches (291 and 163 mm) of precipitation, respectively. On the 6th and 24th, Christiansted Airport observed its wettest and second wettest March days on record, with 3.69 and 1.82 inches (93.7 and 46.2 mm) of rainfall, respectively.
- There were 439 severe weather reports across the Southeast during March, which is nearly 175 percent of the median monthly frequency of 253 reports during 2000-2015. Approximately 70 percent (310 of 439) of the reports were recorded on just two days during the month (1st and 21st), and over half (232 of 439) of all reports occurred in Alabama and Georgia. On the 1st, a squall line generated straight-line wind gusts exceeding 55 mph across the Carolinas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., including a 78 mph gust recorded at Quantico Marine Corps Base, VA. On the 21st, an organized system of thunderstorms produced large hail and damaging winds across a broad swath of Georgia and the Carolinas. Hail ranging from 2 to 3 inches in diameter (hen egg to tea cup-sized) damaged homes and vehicles in the Greenville-Spartanburg area of South Carolina, while 2.5-inch (tennis ball-sized) hail was reported northeast of Charlotte, NC. Straight-line winds up to 60 mph caused trees to fall onto several homes in northeastern Georgia, resulting in 2 fatalities and 1 injury. An 83 mph wind gust was recorded by a weather station on top of Stone Mountain (approximately 800 feet above ground level), located about 15 miles east of Atlanta, GA. On the 27th, strong thunderstorm winds caused 1 injury in Jefferson County, AL, when a tree was blown onto a vehicle. A total of 10 tornadoes (2 EF-0s, 7 EF-1s, 1 EF-2) were confirmed across the region during the month, which is nearly half of the median frequency of 19 tornadoes observed during March. On the 26th, an EF-0 tornado touched down in the southeastern portion of San Juan, PR. Trees and power lines were blown onto several cars and homes, with one weakly constructed house destroyed by the strong winds. On the 31st, an EF-2 tornado tracked 8 miles from Chesapeake to Virginia Beach, VA. A mobile home was destroyed, and a church sustained major damage.
- While drought conditions improved slightly across the interior portion of the region, drought development and expansion occurred in other parts of the region during March. The greatest drought improvement occurred in Alabama, as the coverage of moderate-to-extreme (D1-D3) drought decreased from 54 percent on February 28th to 38 percent on March 28th. By the end of the month, extreme drought had declined across portions of northern Georgia and Upstate South Carolina, with a complete removal of these conditions occurring in central Alabama and western North Carolina. In contrast, drought continued to intensify and expand across much of the Florida Peninsula, with over 50 percent of the state classified in moderate-to-severe (D1-D2) conditions at the end of March. Moderate drought expanded into the northern Piedmont of North Carolina as well as central Virginia, and a small area of moderate drought developed along a coastal portion of the Carolinas. Streamflows, lake levels, and soil moisture were well below normal across drought-stricken portions of the region. Over 50 percent of the USGS gages in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia recorded extremely low (i.e., less than the 10th percentile) streamflows during much of the month. In early March, dry and windy weather contributed to the rapid development of a 7,500-acre wildfire near Naples, FL, which destroyed 4 rural homes. Despite below-normal precipitation and the mid-month freeze, pastures continued to slowly improve across much of the region, except Florida. However, livestock producers in several states maintained a supplemental feeding for their herds due to limited grazing, with a severe shortage of hay persisting in Alabama and Georgia. The hard freeze during mid-March produced up to $1 billion in crop losses across Georgia and South Carolina, including 85 percent of South Carolina peaches and as much as 80 percent of blueberries in southern Georgia. Other fruit crops across the region that had bloomed prematurely due to the unseasonably warm winter were also damaged, particularly peaches and pears in Georgia, strawberries and blueberries in South Carolina, blueberries and peaches in North Carolina, and peaches and cherries in Virginia. A series of frosts damaged fruit and vegetable crops in northern and central Florida, while moderate-to-severe frost damage was reported in winter wheat fields in nearly every state across the region.
- 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 )
- Warm weather continued into March across a large portion of the High Plains region, with the greatest departures occurring throughout Wyoming and Colorado. This March was the warmest on record for Alamosa, Colorado, Laramie, Wyoming, and Rawlins, Wyoming, with numerous locations experiencing a March that was among the top 5 warmest. Warm temperatures continued to accelerate plant growth and, according to the National Phenology Network, growth was a couple weeks ahead of schedule in the central and southern High Plains. Early growth of plants has put them at risk for freeze damage, as much of the region is several weeks away from the average last spring freeze. However, the warm weather has contributed to early calving in some areas and has allowed producers to begin prepping their fields for planting.
- Wet conditions continued in the Wyoming portion of the Rockies, while it was dry along the Colorado Front Range. Snowpack fared well in Wyoming and Colorado during March as we near the end of the first half of the snowpack season. On the other hand, a continuation of warm and dry conditions caused drought to expand across eastern Colorado and Kansas. Topsoil moisture and pasture conditions declined during March, and concerns over winter wheat were growing. Most notably, wildfires raged across this region, spreading quickly due to high winds. The Northwest Oklahoma Complex fires impacted parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas in early March. One of the fires burned over 800 square miles of Clark and Comanche Counties in southern Kansas, killing six people and thousands of cattle. Thousands of miles of fences were burned too, which may cost $10,000 per mile to replace. This fire became the largest single wildfire in Kansas' history, a record that was set just a year ago by the Anderson Creek fire. Later in March, a fire started in the Sunshine Canyon area near Boulder, Colorado, forcing many people to evacuate. While wildfires are not uncommon in these areas in the early spring, the areas they have burned have been quite large. Although heavy rainfall at the end of March brought some drought relief to the region, more moisture will be needed in April to mitigate wildfire conditions.
- Most of the High Plains region experienced above-normal temperatures in March, ranging from about 3.0-5.0 degrees F (1.7-2.8 degrees C) above normal in central and southern portions of the region to greater than 6.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) above normal in the western High Plains. The exception was North Dakota and eastern South Dakota where temperatures were near normal to 3.0 degrees F (1.7 degrees C) below normal. Abnormal warmth has become a common occurrence in some parts of the region. In fact, the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota reported that Sioux Falls just had its 19th consecutive month of above-normal average temperatures! The warmest temperatures of the month generally occurred on the 18th-19th, as widespread temperatures exceeding 80.0 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) occurred throughout Colorado, Nebraska, and Kansas. Temperatures soared to 90.0 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) in southwestern Nebraska, as well as western and southern parts of Kansas. As a result, many daily maximum temperature records were broken in these areas over the 2-day period.
- Despite above-normal temperatures across much of the region during March, there were some cooler periods that included sub-freezing temperatures in areas where plant growth was further along than normal. For instance, a cold snap occurred across much of Kansas the week of March 8th-14th, which may have caused winterkill of winter wheat. Leaf tissue damage was reported in some fields as well. It is important to remember that most of the region is still several weeks away from the date of median last freeze, so conditions should be monitored closely.
- Precipitation varied across the region during March, with some areas experiencing wet conditions while others were dry. Wet locations included the western half of Wyoming, the Nebraska Panhandle, and parts of Kansas. Precipitation was 150-300 percent of normal, with west-central Wyoming receiving greater than 300 percent of normal precipitation. Meanwhile, it was dry throughout western and central Colorado, the Dakotas, and central Nebraska. These locations received no more than 70 percent of normal precipitation. Some areas, such as eastern Colorado and Kansas, would have been much drier in March had they not received copious precipitation the last few days of the month. This rainfall was welcome, as it helped ease drought conditions.
- Heavy rain and snow led to extremely wet conditions in Wyoming. In fact, Lander and Sheridan had their wettest March on record. The Lander area was hit with a snowstorm on the 31st and received an impressive 2.71 inches (69 mm) of liquid equivalent precipitation, which was the highest 1-day total precipitation to ever occur in March and the 6th highest of any month on record. Snowfall has been plentiful this season in the Rockies of Wyoming. However, the snow was so deep in some places it forced wildlife onto roads that had been plowed, which ultimately caused an increase in roadkill.
- Warm and wet weather caused the convective season to get off to an early start this year. On March 6th, a strong low pressure system tracked across the area, causing blizzard conditions in northern North Dakota and severe weather in far eastern Nebraska and eastern Kansas. Several tornadoes were reported in Kansas, and this storm system caused the first widespread severe weather event of the calendar year in the High Plains. Although not in the region, it is worth noting that a tornado was confirmed in Minnesota on the 6th, which was the earliest tornado on record in the state.
- For some areas, snowfall has been scarce this season, and March did not help the snow drought. Only a trace of snow was recorded in Denver, Colorado in March, tying 2012 for the least snowiest March on record. As of March 31st, Denver had only received 19.3 inches (49 cm) of snow since July 1st and is on pace to have its least snowiest season on record. Lincoln, Nebraska received 0.6 inches (2 cm) of snow during March and, as of the 31st, it was the 2nd least snowiest season on record.
- Despite above-normal temperatures throughout the month of March, snowpack continued to be near to above average in the Rockies of Colorado and Wyoming. It was an especially wet month in mountainous areas of Wyoming, with precipitation exceeding 300 percent of normal in the Wind River Range. Meanwhile, it was drier in Colorado, as much of the Front Range received no more than 50 percent of normal precipitation. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) above Fort Peck Dam was 94 percent of average at the end of March, which was a slight decrease from the previous month. Snowpack also decreased slightly between Fort Peck and Garrison Dams but was still abundant as SWE was 129 percent of average. Normally by April 1, about 97 percent of the peak mountain SWE has occurred in both reaches, and snowpack is expected to reach its peak in April.
- Drought conditions both improved and worsened during March throughout the High Plains. Overall, the percent area of the region in abnormal dryness or drought (D0-D4) increased slightly from approximately 35 percent to 37 percent on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Improvements occurred in northeastern Colorado and central Nebraska where beneficial rains fell in the latter part of the month. Meanwhile, degradations occurred throughout much of Kansas where most of the month was dry. Drought conditions in the Black Hills region of South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming changed little during March.
- Perhaps the most notable drought story of the month was rapidly-deteriorating conditions in Kansas and eastern Colorado. At the end of March, about 90 percent of Kansas was experiencing D0-D4 conditions, compared to approximately two-thirds of the state at the end of February. Topsoil moisture suffered, and 62 percent of the winter wheat in Kansas was rated fair or worse. In Colorado, producers were voicing concerns about winter wheat stands. They also reported that fall-planted crops came out of dormancy early due to mild temperatures during late winter, and the topsoil moisture they need for additional growth is lacking. Both states were ravaged with wildfires during March as a result of drought conditions. Fortunately, the last few days of March brought heavy rainfall to drought-stricken areas of Kansas and Colorado, so conditions will be reassessed and improvements will likely be made to the depiction of drought on the U.S. Drought Monitor in early 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)
- March was a warmer than normal month for four states in the southern region, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Whereas the temperatures were near normal for Mississippi and Tennessee For the region as a whole, it was warmer than normal. Temperatures generally averaged between 2 to 6 degrees F (1.11 to 3.33 degrees C) above normal in all of the southern region states. The western portion of the region exhibited temperature anomaly clusters of 6 to 10 degrees F (3.33 to 5.55 degrees C) above normal.
- The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas reporting 55.70 degrees F (13.17 degrees C), Louisiana reporting 64.30 degrees F (17.94 degrees C), Mississippi reporting 60.00 degrees F (15.56 degrees C), Oklahoma reporting 56.20 degrees F (13.44 degrees C), Tennessee reporting 51.10 degrees F (10.61 degrees C), and Texas reporting 63.70 degrees F (17.61 degrees C).
- The state-wide temperature rankings for March are as follows: Arkansas (eighteenth warmest), Louisiana (tenth warmest), Mississippi (fifteenth warmest), Oklahoma (sixth warmest), Tennessee (thirty-fourth warmest), and Texas (second warmest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2017.
- Precipitation values for the month of March varied spatially across the Southern Region. Precipitation totals in the northern and southern parts of Texas, the panhandle of Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas ranged between 150 to over 300 percent of normal. By contrast, conditions were quite dry across much of Louisiana, Mississippi, and eastern Oklahoma with most stations reporting between 25 to 70 percent of normal. In Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas precipitation values were mixed in that there were clusters of normal, below normal and above normal levels of precipitation values. Tennessee reported above normal precipitation for most of the state, ranging from 110 to 200 percent above normal.
- The state-wide precipitation totals for the month are as follows: Arkansas reporting 4.61 inches (117.09 mm), Louisiana reporting 3.51 inches (89.15 mm), Mississippi reporting 4.20 inches (106.68 mm), Oklahoma reporting 2.54 inches (64.52 mm), Tennessee reporting 5.83 inches (148.08 mm), and Texas reporting 1.87 inches (47.50 mm).
- The state precipitation rankings for the month are as follows: Arkansas (fifty-ninth driest), Louisiana (thirty-eighth driest), Mississippi (thirtieth driest), Oklahoma (fifty-fourth wettest), Tennessee (forty-fourth wettest), and Texas (forty-ninth wettest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2017.
- Over the month of March, 2017, drought conditions improved for some parts of the region, such as areas in Tennessee and Arkansas. There were a few areas that went from normal to abnormally dry, including northern Texas and southern Louisiana. Areas of Oklahoma and northeastern Mississippi are experiencing severe drought, with the panhandle of Oklahoma reporting extreme drought.
- On March 1, 2017, there were six tornadoes, golf ball sized hail, and 60 mph (96.5 kph) wind gusts reported in Tennessee, which caused a few injuries and damaged many mobile homes. There were also hail and wind reports in Mississippi and Louisiana.
- On March 6, 2017, three tornadoes touched down in Northern Arkansas with one tornado injuring one person in Mossville, Arkansas. One tornado ranked as an EF-2. There were a dozen hail reports and around 20 damaging wind reports in Northern Oklahoma and Arkansas.
- On March 9, 2017, four tornadoes touched down in Tennessee, with reports of roof damages to many homes in Marshall, Tennessee. There were over a dozen hail reports and over 20 wind reports in Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi.
- On March 21, 2017, there were many reports of hail and damaging wind in Tennessee. In Lewisburg, Tennessee hail the size of small oranges was reported which damaged shingles on houses and broke car windows.
- On March 24, 2017, seven tornadoes were reported in the southern region in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Six people were injured in Faulkner, Arkansas. In De Soto, Louisiana twelve railroad cars were blown off the track as 100 mph (160.9 kph) blew through the area. In Bienville, Louisiana 100 mph (160.9 kph) winds were also reported, which damaged a roof to a church in the area.
- On March 26, 2017, there were many large hail reports in eastern Texas including reports of baseball-sized hail in Argyle, Texas.
- On March 27, 2017, there were four tornado reports in Tennessee, which caused damage to several outbuildings in Decatur, Tennessee. There were reports of hen egg sized hail in Benton, Mississippi and baseball sized hail in Perry, Tennessee. There were also a great amount of damaging wind reports in Tennessee and Mississippi.
- On March 28, 2017, there were 21 tornado reports in Texas. In Howard, Texas, there were reports of tennis ball sized hail that broke many skylights on a home. There were also over 30 wind reports in Texas, including a report of 80 mph (128.7 kph) winds in Tarrant, TX that ripped shingles off many homes.
- On March 29, 2017, there were 18 tornado reports in the southern region in the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. In Oakdale, Louisiana a tornado damaged a gas station canopy. There were also over 50 damaging wind reports total in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
- For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
- Well above normal precipitation was generally confined to the Pacific Northwest this month, with scattered areas in the central Rockies and northern Great Basin as well. Washington and northwest Oregon saw slightly cooler than normal temperatures while the rest of the region observed warmer than normal temperatures, with well above normal temperatures in large areas of the Rocky Mountain states.
- Inland areas of the West experienced above normal temperatures this month, with many long record stations recording a top-five warmest March. A west-to-east gradient was observed with temperatures near normal in northern California and western Oregon in the west to widespread areas over 6 F (3.3 C) above normal in the Rocky Mountain states to the east. In southeastern Wyoming, Laramie observed its warmest March in a 70-year record at 39.6 F (4.2 C), 8.7 F (4.8 C) above normal. Many locations in Colorado saw record or near record March temperatures as well; Grand Junction reported an average temperature of 50.6 (10.3 C), 6.6 F (3.7 C) above normal and the 2nd warmest since records began in 1900. In New Mexico, Albuquerque and Las Cruces, both with over 120 years of record, observed their warmest March. Temperatures at Albuquerque were 6.7 F (3.7 C) above normal and 6.6 F (3.7 C) above normal in Las Cruces. Salt Lake City, Utah, also had its warmest March at 50.2 F (10.1 C), 6.5 F (3.6 C) above normal. Records for Salt Lake City began in 1928. In contrast, Washington saw near to slightly below normal temperatures statewide. Temperatures were 2-4 F (1-2 C) below normal in the north-central part of the state; Wenatchee observed an average 41.0 F (5 C) for the month, 3.1 F (1.7 C) below normal and the 10th coldest March in a 58-year record.
- Precipitation was well above normal across the northern tier of the region this month, with many areas seeing 150-200% of normal precipitation and a top-five wettest March. Olympia, Washington, logged 11.35 in (288 mm) of precipitation, 215% of normal and the 2nd wettest March since records began in 1948. Further east, Moscow, Idaho, also had its second wettest March, recording 7.19 in (183 mm), 267% of normal. Records for Moscow began in 1893. The northern and central Great Basin also saw areas of well above normal precipitation. In northwestern Nevada, Gerlach logged its second wettest March since records began in 1948 at 1.58 in (40 mm), 205% of normal. Further east, Salt Lake City, Utah, observed its 4th wettest March on record at 3.51 in (89 mm), 196% of normal. A large area of Wyoming saw above normal precipitation. Lander reported 4.65 in (118 mm), 401% of normal and the wettest March since records began in 1891.
- Several cold storms this month brought snow to the West and maintained near to above normal snowpack across the region despite the periods of well above normal temperatures. At the end of the month, Sierra Nevada snowpack stood at 160% to over 200% of normal and the Cascades observed roughly 100-140% of normal. The northern and southern Rockies reported near normal snowpack, while the central part of the range varied from near normal to greater than 150% of normal.
- Drier than normal conditions dominated the Southwest this month. San Diego, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Phoenix, Arizona, all recorded less than 10% of normal precipitation for March. This is not unprecedented for these locations, which have all seen at least a few years with no measurable March precipitation. The 0.08 in (2 mm) recorded in San Diego this month was 4% of normal and the 6th driest since records began in 1939. In the US Drought Monitor, drought conditions improved in some areas of southern California this month, likely owing to impacts from previous precipitation in the season. Abnormally dry conditions were expanded across central and eastern New Mexico.
- March was cooler and drier than normal across much of Alaska. All locations south of the Brooks Range observed below normal temperatures for the month. Fairbanks reported its 3rd coolest March on record at -3 F (-19.4 C), 14.4 F (8 C) below normal. Records for Fairbanks began in 1929. Several locations attained or tied their driest March on record. These include Cold Bay, which received 0.04 in (1 mm), the driest since records began in 1950, and McGrath, where only trace precipitation was recorded, tied with three other years since records began in 1939. In contrast, on the North Slope, Utqia'vik recorded 0.3 in (7.6 mm), 333% of normal. Further south, precipitation was variable across the state of Hawaii though generally below normal, especially on the Big Island where Hilo received only 3.4 in (86 mm) of rainfall, 25% of normal. The leeward side of Big Island moved into moderate to severe drought conditions in the US Drought Monitor this month. Scattered locations observed a wetter than normal March; Kahului, Maui, reported 4.14 in (105 mm), 169% of normal.
- March 30: Strong winds impact southern Nevada, southern California: Wind gusts associated with a cold front reached 84 mph (135 kph) in the Las Vegas area. The high winds resulted in dust storms, downed power lines and power outages, airport delays, dust storms and hazardous driving conditions. In southern California, strong winds downed trees and power lines and were related to several traffic incidents.
- March 20-21 Flooding, landslides in eastern Washington and Idaho: Heavy rainfall and snowmelt produced localized flooding in many locations around the Inland Northwest. Minidoka and Twin Falls experienced landslides and flooding that damaged over 80 homes. The Spokane River near Spokane, Washington, flooded, inundating dozens of homes. Flooding has impacted travel in the region, with some roads becoming impassible due to high water or mudslides.
- For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.