National Climate Report - March 2020


National Overview

March Extreme Weather/Climate Events

March Highlights

March Temperature

  • During March, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 46.1°F, 4.6°F above the 20th century average. This ranked as the 10th warmest March in the 126-year period of record.
  • Above-average temperatures were observed from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Record warmth was observed across most of the Gulf Coast, and contributed to the warmest March on record for Florida. Seventeen additional states from Texas to New England experienced a top-10 warm month.
  • California ranked cooler than average with five additional Western states ranking near average for the month.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 56.8°F, 3.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the warmest third of the record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed from the Rocky Mountains to the East Coast. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed from central California to western Arizona.
  • The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during March was 35.4°F, 5.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking fifth warmest on record. Above-average conditions were observed again from the Rockies to the East Coast with record overnight warmth concentrated along the Gulf of Mexico. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama ranked warmest for minimum temperatures during March. Below-average minimum temperatures were observed across parts of the West Coast.
  • The Alaska March temperature was 11.9°F, 1.1°F above the long-term average. This ranked in the middle third of the 96-year period of record for the state and was the coldest March since 2017. On average, the North Slope, West Coast, northern portions of the Northeast Interior and the Aleutians had above-average temperatures during March. Below-average temperatures were felt from Cook Inlet to the Panhandle.
  • During March there were approximately four times as many warm daily records as compared with cold records. As of April 10, there were 4,411 record warm daily high (2,013) and low (2,398) temperature records and 1,182 record cold daily high (698) and low (484) temperature records.
  • Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 49 percent of average and ranked 10th lowest in the 126-year period of record.

March Precipitation

  • The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.83 inches, 0.32 inch above average, and ranked in the wettest third of the 126-year period of record.
  • Above-average to record precipitation was observed from parts of the Southwest to Texas and through the mid-Mississippi Valley into the Great Lakes. Oklahoma ranked fifth wettest while Texas ranked seventh wettest for the month. Portions of southern California received some much needed rainfall during the month, although relief came in the form of flash flooding, which also extended into other parts of the Southwest.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of the Northwest, Northern Tier, Gulf Coast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Florida ranked second driest for March while North Dakota ranked 12th driest.
  • Precipitation was above average across much of mainland Alaska during March.
    • Denali Park Headquarters had its snowiest four-day March period on record with 32.6 inches on March 23-26.
    • The snow course measurement from April 1 at Fielding Lake in the east-central Alaskan Range recorded its greatest snow depth and water equivalent in any month over the last 60 years.
    • The northerly track of the storm systems causing the wet pattern across the mainland of Alaska also produced below-average precipitation across much of the Panhandle. Kodiak had its driest March on record with only 0.19 inch of precipitation, breaking a 0.40-inch record set in 1918.
  • According to the March 31 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 14.5 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 11.5 percent at the beginning of March. Drought conditions intensified and expanded across California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada and much of the Gulf of Mexico coast. Record temperatures and near-record dryness across Florida during March led to flash drought development across the state.
  • According to NOAA data analyzed by Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March snow cover extent was 101,544 square miles below the 1981-2010 average and ranked as the 18th smallest extent in the 54-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across much of the Northern Tier from Washington to the Great Lakes and into northern New England. Below-average snow cover was present across much of the central and southern Rockies, central Plains, Ohio Valley and from the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast.

Year-to-Date Highlights

January-March Temperature

  • The year-to-date (January-March) average contiguous U.S. temperature was 39.3°F, 4.1°F above average, ranking eighth warmest on record.
  • Above-average temperatures blanketed much of the Lower 48 with much-above to record warmth across the eastern half of the contiguous United States. North Carolina and Florida ranked warmest on record for the first three months of the year with eight additional states from South Carolina to New England ranking second warmest for this January-March period.
  • The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-March was 49.6°F, 3.5°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the warmest third of the historical record. Above-average conditions were observed across most of the Lower 48 with pockets of near-average temperatures across the Southwest and central Rockies. All 48 states ranked above- to much-above-average for this three-month period with Massachussets, Rhode Island, and New Jersey ranking second warmest for daytime temperatures.
  • The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during January-March was 28.9°F, 4.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking third warmest on record. Above-average conditions blanketed much of the western half of the CONUS, while much-above- to record temperatures were observed from New Mexico to the Great Lakes and to the East Coast. Ten Eastern states ranked warmest for overnight temperatures during the first three months of 2020. No state ranked near-to or below-average for this period.
  • The Alaska January-March temperature was 2.4°F, 3.5°F below the long-term average, the 16th coldest on record for the state and coldest such year-to-date period since 2012. Below- to much-below average temperatures blanketed most of the interior portions of the state during the first three months of 2020. Only a small portion of the Aleutians ranked above average during this time.
    • The cold season (October-March) across Alaska was the coldest such season in the last seven years with an average temperature of 10.8°F, 1.0°F above average.
  • Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-March was 24 percent of average and was the fourth lowest value on record.

January-March Precipitation

  • The year-to-date precipitation total was 8.02 inches, 1.06 inch above average, tying with 1937 as the 14th wettest January-March on record.
  • Above-average precipitation stretched from parts of the Southwest, across the Southeast and into the Great Lakes. Oklahoma, Mississippi and Tennessee ranked third wettest for this three-month period.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across portions of the West, central Rockies, northern Plains, Gulf Coast and New England. North Dakota ranked fourth driest for the first three months of the year, with California 11th driest and Florida 12th driest.
  • Just one month into the spring (March-May), Fairbanks, Alaska, has already experienced its snowiest spring since 1967 and seventh snowiest spring in the last 106 years.
  • It was the wettest January-March for San Juan, Puerto Rico — 21.62 inches — 6.39 inches greater than the previous record set in 2010.

Extremes

  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was 51 percent above average and ranked 12th highest in the 111-year period of record. Extremes in warm maximum and minimum temperatures, wet PDSI values, and days with precipitation were the major contributors to this elevated CEI value. 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.
    • On the regional scale, The Ohio Valley and the Northeast ranked highest on record for this three-month period while the Southeast ranked second highest. Most of the elevated to record-levels in extremes were due to large regions of warm maximum and minimum temperatures, as well as wet PDSI and days with precipitation. The Northeast experienced extremes in warm maximum temperatures across the entire region while the Southeast had 100% coverage for extremes in warm minimum temperatures. The Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley regions also experienced 100 percent coverage for extremes in wet PDSI.

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 Centers for Environmental Information.

Northeast Region (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)

  • It was the fourth consecutive warmer-than-normal month in the Northeast. The region had its 10th warmest March on record with an average temperature of 39.5°F (4.2°C), which was 5.1°F (2.8°C) above normal. All twelve Northeast states wrapped up March on the warm side of normal, with average temperature departures ranging from 2.8°F (1.6°C) above normal in Maine to 5.9°F (3.3°C) above normal in Maryland. Eleven of the states ranked this March among their 20 warmest: Delaware, fourth warmest; Maryland and New Jersey, sixth warmest; Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, eighth warmest; Massachusetts, ninth warmest; Connecticut and West Virginia, 10th warmest; New York, 11th warmest; and New Hampshire and Vermont, 14th warmest. Beckley, West Virginia, recorded its hottest March day since 1896 with a high temperature of 85°F (29°C), beating the previous record of 83°F (28°C) from 1907.
  • During March, the Northeast received 3.34 inches (84.84 mm) of precipitation, which was 95 percent of normal. Precipitation for the twelve Northeast states ranged from 71 percent of normal in Maryland to 122 percent of normal in Pennsylvania, which was the only wetter-than-normal state. Three major climate sites tied/set their greatest number of March days with measurable precipitation. Those sites were Huntington and Charleston, West Virginia, which saw 21 days and 20 days, respectively, with measurable precipitation, and Wilmington, Delaware, which had 18 days of measurable precipitation.
  • The Northeast started March without abnormal dryness and drought; however, increasing precipitation deficits, low streamflow, and below-normal groundwater levels led to the introduction of abnormal dryness in the Northeast in mid-March. The abnormally dry areas included the northern half of New Jersey, part of southeastern New York, southern and eastern Connecticut, Rhode Island, and part of southeastern Massachusetts. Some of these locations also experienced brush fires. The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 19 showed six percent of the Northeast was abnormally dry. The following week, heavy precipitation allowed abnormal dryness to ease in a few locations, particularly Connecticut and part of New Jersey. However, abnormally dry conditions lingered in southeastern Massachusetts, most of Rhode Island, southeastern New York and northeastern New Jersey. The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 26 showed three percent of the Northeast was abnormally dry.
  • Portland, Maine, recorded its earliest 70°F (21°C) day on record on March 9. The previous record was March 14 in 1946. On March 28 and 29, strong to severe thunderstorms produced golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail in western Pennsylvania and quarter to golf ball-sized hail in Massachusetts, which is unusual for March. Eleven of the Northeast’s 35 major climate sites set or tied their record for least snowy March. In addition, it was the first time on record with no measurable snow in both February and March for Bridgeport, Connecticut; Islip and Kennedy Airport, New York; and Allentown and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. According to the USA National Phenology Network, spring leaf out occurred 23 days earlier than usual in Boston, Massachusetts, and eight days earlier than usual in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • For more information, please visit the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Midwest Region (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)

  • March precipitation was well above normal in eight of the nine Midwest states. Averaged over the region, precipitation totaled 3.68 inches (93 mm) which was 1.17 inches (30 mm) above normal. This March ranked as the 14th wettest on record and the wettest since 1977. Minnesota averaged 94 percent of normal precipitation with the drier northwestern half of the state more than offsetting the wetter southeastern half of the state. The other eight Midwest states had statewide precipitation totals ranging from 130 to 170 percent of normal. Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin each had at least 160 percent of normal precipitation during the month. Outside of Minnesota, only a few small areas had less than normal precipitation.
  • Temperatures in March were above normal in all but the northwestern edge of Minnesota. Averaged across the region, temperatures were 40.6°F (4.8°C) which was 3.8°F (2.1°C) above normal. Temperatures ranged from near normal in northwestern Minnesota to as much as 6°F (3°C) above normal in parts of Ohio and Kentucky. Statewide temperatures ranged from 2.7°F (1.5°C) above normal in Minnesota to 5.3°F (2.9°C) above normal in Ohio. Temperatures in March were well above normal for the first 13 days of the month and also the last seven days with milder conditions in the 10 days between those periods.
  • March snowfall was limited to the northern two-thirds of the region with only northern Minnesota and Upper Michigan receiving over 6 inches (15 cm) during the month. Only the northern edge of Minnesota and an area in northern Illinois had above normal totals for the month. Deficits across a large swath of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan were 4 to 12 inches (10 to 30 cm) below normal. Those reduced totals were less than 25 percent of normal in many locations.
  • Severe weather was limited to just 11 days in March with more than half of the severe weather reports coming during the 26th to the 28th. Only six days had more than a handful of reports. Minnesota and Michigan were totally free of severe weather reports and Wisconsin had just 3 such reports. On the 2nd, tornadoes struck in Missouri and Kentucky and included an EF-2 tornado in Kentucky, while fatal tornadoes hit further south, in Tennessee. Missouri and Kentucky also reported tornadoes on the 12th. Illinois had two tornadoes repored on the 19th that damaged more than a dozen homes. The 28th was the busiest day for severe weather with strong storms across the southern two-thirds of the region. Tornadoes were reported in Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, with reports of large hail and damaging winds more widespread. An EF-2 tornado was surveyed near Corydon, Kentucky, and several EF-1 tornadoes were also reported. Two injuries were attributed to a tornado in Newburgh, Indiana. Farm outbuildings and trees were also damaged.
  • Heavy rain in the Ohio River Valley and along the Mississippi River led to minor and moderate flooding during the second half of March. Significant impacts were felt in southern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky from heavy rain on March 19-20. Several bridges were washed out. A bridge in Laurel, Indiana, washed out along with two vehicles on the morning of March 20, which resulted in six fatalities, including three children. Minor and moderate flooding continued through the end of March.
  • In the March 31 U.S. Drought Monitor, the Midwest remained free of drought for the 21st consecutive week. The streak was the second longest on record trailing only the January 1-August 6, 2019 streak of 32 weeks. Since January 1, 2019, 53 of 66 weeks have been drought free. Abnormally dry conditions have also not been observed in the Midwest since the week of January 7, 2020, which was a stretch of 12 consecutive weeks. Very high soil moisture values were observed across the Midwest in March.
  • 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 much above average across the Southeast for the month of March. Monthly mean temperatures were over 6°F (3.3°C) above normal in over half of the 209 long-term (i.e., period of record equaling or exceeding 50 years) stations across the region. Indeed, there were 19 stations that ranked warmest March on record, including Pensacola, FL (1879-2020), Orlando, FL (1892-2020), and Montgomery, AL (1872-2020). San Juan, PR, however, reported 1.2°F (0.7°C) below normal for the month. Maximum temperatures were generally 4 to 7°F (2.2 to 3.9°C) warmer than average. A few stations in Florida reported a record number of 90°F (32.2°C) days for March, including Plant City, FL (1892-2020) with 10 days, and Fort Myers, FL (1902-2020) with 9 days. Daily temperature minimums ranged from 7 to 10°F (3.9 to 5.6°C) above average, as a persistent influx of subtropical moisture suppressed nighttime cooling during the month. The coldest weather of the month across the Southeast occurred on the 1st and the 7th, as continental high pressure systems ushered in cold, dry air from the northwest. Daily minimum temperatures fell below 32°F (0°C) as far south as northern Florida, with the western half of North Carolina and Virginia reaching 25°F (-3.9°C) or lower. In contrast, the warmest weather of the month occurred from the 27th through the 29th, as the circulation around the Bermuda High, situated off the Atlantic coast, transported warm, humid air over much of the Southeast region. Daily maximum temperatures exceeded 80°F (26.7°C) across much of the region. A few stations even reported their warmest March day on record including, Blacksburg, VA (1952-2020) at 86°F (30°C), and Jacksonville, FL (1871-2020) at 94°F (34.4°C).
  • Precipitation varied across the region for March, with the driest locations found across all of Florida, where precipitation totals were 25 to less than 5 percent of normal. A persistent and strong ridge of high pressure located near the Gulf Coast and western Florida kept frontal systems to the north of the state, and suppressed precipitation throughout the month. Several long-term stations in Florida observed March precipitation totals that were ranked within their five lowest values on record, including Daytona Beach, FL (1923-2020; 0.3 inches, 7.6 mm), West Palm Beach, FL (1888-2020; 0.17 inches, 4.3 mm), Miami, FL (1895-2020; 0.1 inches, 2.5 mm), and Key West, FL (1871-2020; 0.02 inches, 0.5 mm). In contrast, the wettest locations in northern Alabama, northern Georgia and Puerto Rico received up to 200 percent of their normal precipitation. Aibonito, PR (1906-2020) reported 7.80 inches (198 mm) of precipitation for the month, ranking it the 5th wettest. From the 23rd through the 24th, a slow-moving frontal boundary produced heavy rainfall across the northern portions of the region, with 2-day precipitation totals of 3 to 5 inches (76 to 127 mm) recorded in parts of northern Alabama, and northern Georgia. Snow was mostly confined to the mountains of western North Carolina and Virginia. Mt. Mitchell, NC (1980-2020) measured 5.1 inches (130 mm) of snowfall, the highest in the region for the month, while Mill Gap, VA (1976-2020) measured 3 inches (76 mm).
  • There were 162 reports of severe weather across the Southeast during March, which is only 66 percent of the median monthly frequency of 247 reports during 2000-2018. There were 15 confirmed tornadoes reported for the month (9 EF-0, 5 EF-1, and 1 EF-2), almost half of the monthly average of 28. About 11 of these tornadoes were associated with a line of thunderstorms with embedded supercells that developed ahead of a cold front, which moved across Alabama, Georgia, and northern Florida on March 31st. The most damaging tornado was rated an EF-2 with winds of 130 mph (58 m/s) and occurred in Barbour County, AL. The tornado formed in a wooded area just north of Highway 131 and moved northeastward. It intensified as it crossed Highway 431 with the most significant damage to a neighborhood. Large sections of roofs were removed from a few well-built residences, as well as the collapse of some exterior walls. There were no injuries or fatalities associated with this tornado. Another tornado, rated EF-1 with winds of 100 mph (45 m/s), downed a tree on top of a mobile home, causing an injury in Randolph County, GA. In Walton County, FL, a waterspout moved onshore, snapping a tree and causing minor damage to a home that same day. There were 6 reports of hail for the month, with the largest being teacup-sized (3.00 inches) in Vernon, AL. There were 141 wind reports for the month, which is about average (142 reports). Strong winds were also observed across the region on March 31st, with the strongest reported gust at 80 mph (36 m/s) in Coweta County, GA. There were over 60 reports of trees down, with several of instances of damage to structures. By the evening, more than 35,000 customers were without power. There were no reported injuries or fatalities, however.
  • Drought intensified and expanded in coverage across Florida, southern Georgia, and southern Alabama. Moderate drought (D1) developed across almost the entire Florida peninsula, and a pocket of severe drought (D2) emerged in the Florida panhandle. By the end of the month, abnormally dry conditions (D0) expanded to southern Georgia and southern Alabama, with a pocket of moderate drought (D1) along the Gulf Coast of Alabama. Adequate amounts of precipitation kept Puerto Rico drought-free for March. In Florida, pasture conditions steadily declined throughout the month due to the dry soil and increasing temperatures. However, citrus grove activities were normal for this time of year, as farmers were able to, fertilize, hedge, top, and irrigate before the harvest. Warmer conditions allowed for good hay and small grains growth throughout much of Georgia; however, the warm days combined with the wet conditions in the northern portion of the state prevented many producers from being able to apply herbicides and nutrients. Peaches and blueberries were in full bloom. However, vegetable growers continued to battle disease problems brought on by the wet conditions. Pastures started to green up with the warmer temperatures in North Carolina, and soil conditions were good for planting. Herbicide and fertilizer applications for wheat were delayed due to above normal precipitation in northern Alabama. However, vegetables were planted and the strawberry crop was on schedule. Spring bloom was three to four weeks earlier than normal (1981-2010) in the Southeast. Atlanta, GA had a maximum daily pollen count of 8910 g/m3 on March 29th, which ranked 2nd highest for the pollen season (2012-2020), and Raleigh, NC reported a pollen count of 3064 g/m3 on March 30th, which ranked 5th highest for the pollen season (2002-2020). Fortunately, no frost damage was reported, as temperatures for the month were well above normal.
  • For more information, please visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

High Plains Region (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center)

  • It was a warm and dry start to spring for the majority of the High Plains region. Above-normal temperatures were widespread, with departures generally ranging from 2.0-6.0°F (1.1-3.3°C) above normal. Only a few areas of Wyoming and North Dakota had slightly below-normal temperatures. The majority of the region was also dry this month, with large areas of Colorado, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming receiving less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. High wildfire risk due to dry and windy conditions prompted Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to issue an emergency disaster declaration. One fire in Greenwood County, Kansas burned over 5,000 acres. Meanwhile, two main areas of above-normal precipitation occurred along a swath from northeastern Colorado through Wisconsin and in an area encompassing much of southeastern Kansas. These areas received at least 150 percent of normal precipitation.
  • By the middle of the month, snowmelt and rain contributed to ongoing or renewed flooding along the James and Big Sioux Rivers in eastern South Dakota. According to the Missouri River Basin River Forecast Center, at the beginning of April, two locations along the James River had been above flood stage for over a year - Columbia, SD and Stratford, SD. Towards the end of the month, flooding also began along the Red River of the North and its tributaries in North Dakota. Flooding was ongoing across eastern areas of the Dakotas at the time of this writing. With the growing season quickly approaching, there continues to be concerns regarding long-term wetness and flooding, and how these conditions may impact spring planting activities. In some areas of the region, fall fieldwork was not completed. This has especially been an issue in North Dakota, where some crops remain in the fields waiting to be harvested. Despite the warm and dry conditions this month, soil moisture remained high across the Northern Plains, which may delay spring planting activities yet again this year. Ongoing flooding in eastern areas of the Dakotas is also a concern, as many fields have been inundated, yet again.
  • Overall, March temperatures were above normal across the High Plains region. The majority of the region had temperature departures of 2.0-4.0°F (1.1-2.2°C) above normal, including much of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas. Some areas had departures up to 6.0°F (3.3°C) above normal; however, this warmth was not record-breaking. Meanwhile, much of Wyoming and eastern North Dakota had monthly average temperatures that were within 2.0°F (1.1°C) of normal. Although this month’s warmth was not one for the record books, many locations did rank in the top 20 warmest Marches on record. For instance, Concordia, Kansas had its 13th warmest March on record with an average temperature of 47.8°F (8.8°C), which was 4.8°F (2.7°C) above normal. The warmest March on record occurred in 2012 when the average temperature was 56.6°F (13.7°C) (period of record 1885-present).
  • Now that spring is in full swing, many people may be wondering how this year’s leaf out compares to previous years. Looking at data from the USA National Phenology Network, it is clear that much of the country is experiencing an early spring. In fact, spring leaf out is about three to four weeks ahead of normal for parts of the Southeast, Northeast, and West. So far for the High Plains region, spring leaf out is slightly late in some areas of Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska. For portions of eastern Kansas and pockets of Nebraska, however, spring leaf out is slightly early. To track the spring leaf out and bloom in your area, please see: https://www.usanpn.org/news/spring.
  • It was a fairly dry month for the High Plains, with the majority of the region receiving less than 50 percent of normal precipitation. This led to several locations having a top 10 driest and/or least snowiest March on record, including Aberdeen, South Dakota (6th driest and 7th least snowiest); Bismarck, North Dakota (7th least snowiest); Goodland, Kansas (9th least snowiest); and Fargo, North Dakota (10th least snowiest). Dry conditions resulted in a range of impacts, as drought was expanded in eastern Colorado and fires were reported in Kansas and Nebraska, yet saturated soils were able to dry out slightly. On the other end of the spectrum, there were two main areas that received at least 150 percent of normal precipitation, including southeastern Kansas and an area extending from northeastern Colorado through northeastern Nebraska. Much of this precipitation fell during the second half of the month. This precipitation was not necessarily record-breaking; however, some locations ranked in the top 15 wettest Marches on record. One example was Norfolk, Nebraska, which had its 11th wettest March on record with 3.01 inches (76 mm) of liquid equivalent precipitation (period of record 1893-present). Although ranking as 11th wettest, this was quite far from the record amount of 7.27 inches (185 mm), which occurred in 1987. While the month of March was fairly dry, there were some notable events that occurred. For instance, Wyoming has been impacted by a number of storm systems this snow season that have caused significant travel disruptions. According to KGAB Radio, I-80 in Wyoming had been closed at least 54 times by the end of February. A deadly pileup on I-80 in early March closed the interstate yet again, adding to the total. Adverse weather conditions contributed to the crash and the closure. A notable storm system tracked across the higher elevations of central Colorado on the 19th and brought heavy snowfall to places such as Denver, which picked up 6.0 inches (15 cm) of snow. This was the highest 1-day snow total of the 2019-20 snow season for Denver. This system also produced the first severe thunderstorms of the spring season in Kansas and Nebraska. Another system brought abundant rainfall to portions of the region during the last week of the month, triggering flood watches over central and northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota.
  • Mountain snowpack continued to be near to above median across Colorado and Wyoming this month. At the beginning of April, all basins were reporting Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) of at least 90 percent of median except for one - the Sweetwater Basin in central Wyoming. Across the Upper Missouri Basin, SWE continued to be slightly above average. According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as of March 29th, mountain SWE was 102 percent of average above Fort Peck and 101 percent of average in the reach from Fort Peck to Garrison. Significant flooding from mountain snow runoff alone is not anticipated this spring, according to the National Weather Service. Across the Plains, much of the snowpack had melted by the end of the month, with only a small amount remaining across portions of eastern North Dakota.
  • Drought conditions expanded only slightly across the High Plains region over the past month. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area experiencing drought (D1-D4) held at about 10 percent over the course of the month (9.72 percent on February 25th compared to 10.35 percent on March 24th). Abnormally dry conditions (D0) remained largely unchanged from last month, with the exception of northwestern North Dakota where D0 developed towards the end of the month, and the panhandle of Nebraska where a small area of D0 improved. D0 remained unchanged in southern Wyoming and western Kansas. In mid-March, moderate drought conditions (D1) increased in coverage across portions of eastern Colorado. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, warm and dry conditions in this area have begun to negatively impact winter wheat and rangelands, and streamflows were below the 10th percentile. Meanwhile, severe drought conditions (D2) remained nearly unchanged across portions of southern Colorado and western Kansas. The remainder of the region continued to remain free of drought and abnormally dry conditions, despite experiencing a relatively dry month. The streak of drought-free conditions (D1-D4) continued this month for Nebraska and South Dakota. Nebraska has remained free of drought since early September 2018 and South Dakota has remained free of drought since early December 2018.
  • For more information, please visit the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Southern Region (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)

  • Temperatures for the month of March were above normal across the Southern Region. Parts of western Oklahoma, northern and western Texas, and northern and central Arkansas experienced temperatures 2 to 4°F (1.11 to 2.22°C) above normal. Parts of western, central, and eastern Oklahoma; northern, central, eastern, and western Texas; western, southern, and eastern Arkansas; northwestern Louisiana; northwestern Mississippi; and most of Tennessee experienced temperatures 4 to 6°F (2.22 to 3.33°C) above normal. Parts of eastern Oklahoma, northwestern and southern Arkansas, eastern, central, and southern Texas, northern and central Louisiana, northern Mississippi, and southern and eastern Tennessee experienced temperatures 6 to 8°F (3.33. to 4.44°C) above normal, while parts of eastern and southern Texas, western, northern, and southeastern Louisiana, and central and southern Mississippi experienced temperatures 8 to 10°F (4.44 to 5.56°C) above normal. The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas – 56.40°F (13.56°C), Louisiana – 67.30°F (19.61°C), Mississippi – 64.00°F (17.78°C), Oklahoma – 55.40°F (13.00°C), Tennessee – 54.90°F (12.72°C), and Texas – 63.20°F (17.33°C). The statewide temperature rankings for March were as follows: Arkansas (fourteenth warmest), Louisiana (fourth warmest), Mississippi (fourth warmest), Oklahoma (tenth warmest), Tennessee (eleventh warmest), and Texas (third warmest). The region as a whole experienced its sixth warmest March on record. All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2020.
  • Precipitation values for the month of March varied spatially across the Southern Region. Parts of western Oklahoma, northern, southern, southeastern, and eastern Texas, southern Louisiana, and southern Mississippi received 50 percent or less of normal precipitation. Parts of western Oklahoma, coastal Texas, southern Louisiana, and southern Mississippi received 25 percent or less of normal precipitation, while parts of coastal Texas and southeastern Louisiana received 2 percent or less of normal precipitation. In contrast, parts of eastern, central, and southern Oklahoma; western, northern, southern, and eastern Arkansas; western, central, southern, and eastern Tennessee; northern Mississippi; and northern, central, eastern, and western Texas received 150 percent or more of normal precipitation. Parts of southwestern Tennessee, northern Mississippi, northern and eastern Arkansas, southwestern Oklahoma, and northern, central, eastern, and western Texas received precipitation 200 percent or more of normal, while parts of western Texas received precipitation 400 percent or more of normal. The statewide precipitation totals for the month were as follows: Arkansas – 7.06 inches (179.32 mm), Louisiana – 3.75 inches (95.25 mm), Mississippi – 6.04 inches (153.42 mm), Oklahoma – 5.05 inches (128.27 mm), Tennessee – 8.00 inches (203.20 mm), and Texas – 3.12 inches (79.25 mm). The state precipitation rankings for March were as follows: Arkansas (eighteenth wettest), Louisiana (forty-sixth driest), Mississippi (fifty-fourth wettest), Oklahoma (fifth wettest), Tennessee (fourteenth wettest), and Texas (seventh wettest). The region as a whole experienced its twentieth wettest March on record. All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2020.
  • At the end of March, drought conditions both improved and deteriorated across the Southern Region. Exceptional drought conditions developed in deep south Texas. Extreme drought conditions persisted across southern Texas, with areas expanding along the southern border and the southeastern part of the state. Severe drought classifications were still present in southern Texas and extreme western Oklahoma, while new areas developed across southern Texas. Moderate drought classifications decreased across southwestern Texas, with moderate drought conditions removed completely from southwestern Oklahoma. However, moderate drought conditions developed across southeastern Texas, southern and southeastern Louisiana, and southern Mississippi. There was a decrease in the overall area experiencing abnormally dry conditions, despite the development of abnormally dry conditions across southeastern and southern Louisiana as well as southern Mississippi. This is because the area experiencing abnormally dry conditions decreased across southwestern Oklahoma as well as southwestern and southeastern Texas.
  • In March, there were approximately 308 storm reports across Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi. There were 48 tornado reports, 105 hail reports, and 155 wind reports. Texas tallied the most tornado (20) and hail reports (33) while Tennessee tallied the most wind reports (70). Tennessee tallied the most reports (94) while Louisiana (9) tallied the fewest. Every state except for Louisiana reported tornadoes.
Significant Events
  • On March 2, 2020, there were 36 storm reports across Tennessee and Arkansas. There were 13 tornado reports across Tennessee, with one report detailing an EF-4 tornado and another describing an EF-3 tornado. Five of the tornado reports tallied 29 people killed and over 300 people injured, with one report describing a strong, long-track EF-3 tornado passing just north of downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Tea-cup sized hail was reported near Charlotte, Tennessee, while baseball sized hail was reported near Dickson, Tennessee. A wind gust of 60 mph (96.56 kph) was reported at the National Weather Service office in Old Hickory, Tennessee.
  • On March 3, 2020, tennis ball sized hail was reported near the towns of Sand Hill, Ludlow, and Glade, Mississippi. A wind gust of 58 mph (93.34 kph) was reported near Livingston, Mississippi, and one person was injured by strong winds near Flora, Mississippi.
  • On March 13, 2020, two tornadoes were reported near Mentone, Texas and Barstow, Texas. One injury was reported near Mentone, Texas, as wind speeds between 100 – 130 mph (160.93 – 209.22 kph) were reported.
  • On March 18, 2020, 15 tornadoes were reported across north-central Texas and one tornado was reported in northeastern Oklahoma. Three people were injured in conjunction with tornadoes near Graham, Texas. Hen egg sized hail was reported near Tye, Texas, while hail between hen egg and tennis ball size was reported near Lubbock, Texas. Wind gusts of 69 mph (111.05 kph) were reported near Tipton, Oklahoma and Lawton, Oklahoma, while a wind gust of 62 mph (99.78 kph) was reported near Abilene, Texas.
  • On March 19, 2020, there were 5 tornado reports in Arkansas and one tornado report in Oklahoma. Baseball sized hail was reported near Catarina, Texas. A wind gust of 70 mph (112.65 kph) was reported near Stilwell, Oklahoma, while a wind gust of 68 mph (109.44 kph) was reported near Mountain Home, Arkansas.
  • On March 24, 2020, a tornado was reported near Tishomingo, Mississippi, while another tornado was reported near Franklin, Tennessee.
  • On March 27, 2020, tea cup sized hail was reported near Zena, Oklahoma, while tennis ball to baseball sized hail was reported near Disney, Oklahoma. A wind gust of 63 mph (101.39 kph) was reported near Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, while a wind gust of 62 mph (99.78 kph) was reported near Minco, Oklahoma.
  • On March 28, 2020, there were 89 storm reports across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas. Three tornadoes were reported in Arkansas, with a large tornado passing near Jonesboro, Arkansas. Baseball sized hail was reported near Deemer, Mississippi. A wind gust of 74 mph (119.09 kph) was reported near Jonesboro, Arkansas, while a wind gust of 63 mph (101.39 kph) was reported near Clarksville, Tennessee. There were also several reports of trees blown down across Tennessee.
  • On March 30, 2020, there were two tornado reports in northern Texas, one near Pantex, Texas and the other near Sunray, Texas.
  • On March 31, 2020, there were two tornado reports in southern Mississippi, both near Basin, Mississippi.
  • For more information, please visit the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Western Region (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)

  • Weather in the western United States during the first two thirds of March continued to be influenced by amplified ridge conditions off the coast of North America in association with the positive phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Persistent dry conditions beginning in January led to the United States Drought Monitor placing large areas of central and northern California and western Nevada into abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions in mid-March. The ridge finally broke down in the third week of March allowing much needed precipitation and snowfall to occur in California and Nevada. With a few localized exceptions, much of the coastal and Intermountain West experienced drier-than-normal conditions, especially Washington, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, northern New Mexico, and the northern two-thirds of Nevada. The exceptions included southcentral Oregon, the northern Sierra Nevada and central coast of California, eastern Idaho, the Yellowstone region of southcentral Montana and northwestern Wyoming, and eastern Utah. Well-above normal precipitation was observed in southern California and Nevada, western Arizona, and southern New Mexico. Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, with records dating back to 1955, observed its wettest March on record with 2.75 in. (70 mm). This is 724% of normal.
  • Snowpack conditions at the end of March generally improved compared to the start of the month. Many regions in the southwest benefitted from the late March cutoff low that brought increases in water stored as snow. Near-normal to above-normal snowpack was observed in New Mexico, Montana, Washington, eastern Oregon, Utah, Colorado, northern Idaho, northern Nevada, and Wyoming. Well-below normal snowpack conditions persisted in Arizona, California, southern Oregon, southcentral Idaho, and central and western Nevada.
  • The western half of the region experienced slightly (~1-2°F; 0.5-1°C) below-normal temperatures during March. With a mean temperature of 29.5°F (-1.4°C) Shelby, Montana observed its 11th coldest March (3.9°F (2.2°C) below normal) since 1950. The central and eastern Intermountain West experienced above-normal temperatures. Raton, New Mexico, where records began in 1946, experienced its 5th warmest March with mean temperatures of 44°F (6.7°C), which is 4.1 °F (2.3°C) above normal.
  • Due to several Kona lows in March, Many Hawaiian Islands reported well-above normal precipitation. The islands of Kauai, Hawaii, and Oahu all had stations observing 200% of normal precipitation or more. Temperatures were generally near-normal to slightly-above normal. Since records began in 1950, Lihue Airport recorded its 13th warmest March at 73.8°F (23.2°C), which is 1.1°F (0.61°C) above normal. It also observed its third wettest March on record, with 15.62 in. (397 mm) of precipitation or 338% of normal. Hilo experienced its sixth wettest March since 1949 with 27.95 in. (710 mm) of precipitation, which is 208% of normal.
  • Temperatures in northern Alaska were well above normal, especially along the North Slope. Barrow, where records began in 1901, observed it’s 6th warmest March with mean temperatures of -5.4°F (-20.8°C), which is 7.3°F (4°C) above normal. In contrast, well-below normal temperatures were observed in the southcentral regions with slightly below normal temperatures in the southeastern region. Coastal southcentral and southeastern Alaska were drier-than-normal in March, while the interior and northern regions experienced wetter-than-normal conditions. Barrow reported its wettest March on record with 0.91 in. (23 mm) of precipitation or 1010% of normal. Kodiak observed its driest March since records began in 1909 with 0.19 in. (4.8 mm) of precipitation. Sea ice extent underwent its greatest March decline in the satellite era, dropping from 91% to 74% (of 1981-2010 mean) in the second half of March.
Significant Events
  • March 13-18: Heavy snow in Sierra Nevada: A deep and slowly progressing cutoff low brought heavy snowfall to the northern Sierra Nevada of California and Nevada, with snowfall totals exceeding 60 inches (1500 mm) in many locations. This ideal synoptic scenario for significant snowfall accumulation more than doubled snow depths in the northern two-thirds of the range and left snow at previously barren lower elevations. However, the gains in snow water equivalent were more modest, on the order of 3-8 in. (70-200 mm). As a result, dry snow drought conditions remain in the range.
  • March 28: Extreme rainfall and flooding in Kauai: A cold core Kona low brought extreme rainfall to the leeward side of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Many locations recorded more than 6 in. (150 mm) of rainfall in a 24-hour period, with Hanalei observing 8.33 in. (211 mm) of rainfall. The storm brought numerous flood-related impacts to the island, including high streamflows and road closures, forcing some evacuations.
  • March 1: Winter storm roadway impacts in Wyoming: A winter storm in southwestern Wyoming caused two major multi-vehicle accidents. The first accident occurred on the afternoon of March 1, and involved approximately 100 vehicles on westbound I-80 between Laramie and Rawlins. The second accident took place several minutes later near milepost 180 in the eastbound lanes. Around 40 vehicles were involved in the second accident. Six people were killed and dozens injured as a result of the two incidents.
  • For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for March 2020, published online April 2020, retrieved on May 25, 2020 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/202003.

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