National Climate Report - March 2019
Maps and Graphics
Temperature and Precipitation Ranks
U.S. Percentage Areas
- Climate Highlights — March
March Average Temperature Departures
March Percent of Average Precipitation
- During March, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 40.7°F, 0.8°F below the 20th century average. This ranked in the middle third of the 125-year period of record.
- Below-average temperatures were observed Northwest, the Great Plains and across portions of the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. A small pocket of record-cold temperatures was evident across a portion of Columbia River Valley.
- Arizona and New Mexico had above-average temperatures during March, while most of the contiguous U.S. experienced near-average temperatures for the month.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 51.9°F, 1.1°F below the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the record. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed across much of the Great Plans and parts of the Pacific Northwest. Above-average maximum temperatures were also observed in the Pacific Northwest and the Southwest.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during March was 29.4°F, 0.6°F below the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the record. Above-average conditions were observed in the Southwest and across parts of Florida. Below-average minimum temperatures were observed from the Pacific Northwest to the Great Lakes and into the Northeast.
- The Alaska March temperature was 26.7°F, 15.9°F above the long-term average. This was the warmest March in the 95-year period of record for the state and exceeded the previous warmest March in 1965 by more than 3°F. All long-term climate stations north of the Alaska Range and Bristol Bay had their warmest March on record. Kotzebue’s average March temperature was warm enough to be among its 10 warmest Aprils on record. The mean March temperature at Utqiaġvik (Barrow) was 5.9°F. This is the first March with a mean temperature above 0°F in the last 99 years of recordkeeping, surpassing the previous warmest March, which occurred just last year, by 6.5°F.
- During March, extreme cold records outweighed extreme warm records by nearly 2.5 times. For the month, there were 1,611 record warm daily high (545) and low (1066) temperature records and 3,961 record cold daily high (2,299) and low (1,662) temperature records.
- Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was approximately 10 percent above average and ranked near the median value in the 125-year period of record.
- The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.20 inches, 0.31 inch below average, and ranked in the driest third of the 125-year period of record.
- During mid-March, a “bomb cyclone” developed across the central U.S. bringing snow, blizzard conditions, heavy rainfall and above-freezing temperatures across parts of the interior U.S., which already had significant snowpack on the ground. This resulted in widespread flash flooding due to the combination of new rainfall, rapidly melting snow and frozen ground. A State of Emergency was declared for parts of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Wisconsin as the Missouri, Platte and Mississippi rivers breached their banks.
- Above-average precipitation served across parts of the West, central Rockies and into the central Plains and middle Mississippi Valley. This precipitation exacerbated the flooding that occurred during the latter half of March in the central U.S. Flooding along these major rivers and tributaries is anticipated to continue well into April.
- Below-average precipitation was observed across the Northwest, South, Southeast and East Coast. Washington and Montana had one of their 10 driest Marchs on record.
- According to the April 2 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 6 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down from 12 percent at the end of February and is one of the smallest U.S. drought footprints on record. Drought conditions continued to improve across much of the West and intensified across parts of Washington, Texas and the Southeast. During March, California became drought-free for the first time since December 2011.
- According to NOAA data analyzed by Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March snow cover extent was 321,235 square miles above the 1981-2010 average and ranked as the sixth highest value in the 53-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across much of the West, Rockies, Great Plains, Midwest and Northeast. Below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Southern Rockies and Ohio Valley.
- Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January-March)
Jan-Mar Average Temperature Departures
Jan-Mar Percent of Average Precipitation
- The year-to-date (January-March) average contiguous U.S. temperature was 35.0°F, 0.1°F below average, ranking among the middle third of the record. This was the coldest start to a year since 2014 for the nation.
- Above-average temperatures were primarily observed across the Southeast and Atlantic Coast. Florida had an average January–March temperature that ranked among its 10 warmest on record. Near-average conditions stretched from the southern Plains to the Northeast and across much of the West. Below-average temperatures were present across the northern and central Plains and parts of the West.
- The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-March was 45.3°F, 0.8°F below the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record. Above-average conditions were observed across much of the Southeast and Atlantic Coast. Below-average maximum temperature dominated the Great Plains and parts of the West.
- The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during January-March was 24.7°F, 0.5°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the record. Above-average conditions were observed across the South, Southeast and Atlantic Coast. Below-average conditions were observed in the Northwest and northern Plains.
- The Alaska January-March temperature was 16.6°F, 10.7°F above the long-term average, the third warmest on record for the state. Record temperatures were observed across most of the state with much-above-average temperatures occurring across the Aleutians and the panhandle.
- Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-March was 10 percent below average and was the 49th lowest value on record.
- The year-to-date precipitation total was 8.03 inches, 1.07 inch above average, tying with 1949 as the 12th wettest January–March period on record.
- Below-average precipitation was observed across the South and parts of the Southeast. Washington ranked 10th driest for the year-to-date period. Above-average precipitation stretched from coast-to-coast with many states having one of their 10 wettest January–March periods on record; Colorado was fourth wettest, Tennessee and Utah were fifth wettest and Nevada sixth wettest.
- The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was 6 percent below average and ranked near the median value in the 110-year period of record. Despite the below-average national value, there were elevated extremes in wet PDSI and the number of days with precipitation. 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 CEI in the Ohio Valley ranked as the 19th highest value on record due to extremes in wet PDSI and days with precipitation, which were both highest on record for the region. Elevated regional extremes over the last several months have been dominated by persistent and steady precipitation. This can be seen in the record and near-record ranks for both wet PDSI and days with precipitation throughout many regions.
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)
- March was a colder-than-normal month in the Northeast. The region’s average temperature of 32.6 degrees F (0.3 degrees C) was 1.9 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) below normal. All twelve states were colder than normal, with departures ranging from 2.6 degrees F (1.4 degrees C) below normal in Vermont to 1.1 degrees F (0.6 degrees C) below normal in New Jersey.
- After nine consecutive wetter-than-normal months (June 2018 through February 2019), the Northeast averaged out to be drier than normal. The region’s 2.48 inches (63.0 mm) of precipitation was 71 percent of normal. Eleven states received below-normal precipitation, with departures for those states ranging from 46 percent of normal in New Hampshire to 95 percent of normal in New Jersey. Four states ranked this March among their 20 driest on record, with New Hampshire its 13th driest, New York and Vermont having their 17th driest, and West Virginia having its 19th driest. Maryland was a tad wet at 104 percent of normal.
- A storm moved up the East Coast from March 3 to 4, bringing snow to much of the Northeast. The greatest snow totals of over 12 inches (30 cm) were found mainly in northern New Jersey, southeastern New York, and southern New England. Another storm moved up the coast from March 21 to 23, bringing a mix of precipitation types to the region. Some areas, particularly higher elevations, received snow, with the greatest totals of up to 26 inches (66 cm) in Vermont. Other areas received heavy rain, with the greatest totals of up to 3.90 inches (99.1 mm) in southern Pennsylvania and Maryland. Dulles Airport, Virginia, received 2.69 inches (68.3 mm) of rain on March 21, making it the site’s wettest March day on record (since 1960). The previous record was 2.30 inches (58.4 mm) on March 6, 2011. Parts of southern Pennsylvania and Maryland experienced flooding from the heavy rain, with some closed roads and stranded vehicles. In addition, coastal flooding closed several roads in New Jersey.
- 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 was above normal for the Midwest with totals topping three inches (76 mm) across much of the southern half of the region. Total precipitation for the region as a whole was 109 percent of normal. However, amounts varied greatly depending on location. Statewide values ranged from 67 percent of normal in Wisconsin to 135 percent of normal in Illinois. Michigan and Kentucky joined Wisconsin with statewide values that were below normal. Some of the wettest areas, with 150 to 200 percent of normal, were in western Minnesota, western Iowa, central Illinois and northern Missouri.
- Temperatures were colder than normal across the entire Midwest in March. Average temperature was 33.1°F (0.6°C) which was 3.7°F (2.1°C) below normal. The coldest areas were in Iowa, Minnesota and western Wisconsin. March began very cold, with more than 1,000 daily maximum and minimum temperature record lows broken from March 3rd to March 6th. Slightly warmer than normal temperatures were common during the middle of the month, but colder weather returned for the last week of the month.
- Major flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers and their tributaries impacted Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Missouri during the second half of March. Heavy rain fell across western Iowa, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin during a storm from March 13th to March 14th. Record snowfall at many locations across western Iowa, southern Minnesota and Wisconsin melted very quickly. Soils were frozen in many of these areas, while soil moisture was at or near saturation levels in areas that weren’t frozen. Record crests were recorded along the Big Sioux River, Little Sioux River, Missouri River, and Ocheyedan River. States of Emergency were declared in Wisconsin, Iowa and Missouri. Damage was estimated at over 1.6 billion dollars in Iowa and a federal major disaster declaration was declared for 56 Iowa counties. Damage well into the millions of dollars was also reported in Wisconsin and Missouri.
- March saw less severe weather than normal with only five days having reports of severe weather in the region, with no reports from Iowa, Minnesota, nor Wisconsin. The vast majority of the reports came on March 14th, with more than three-quarters of the March reports. Two Kentucky tornadoes were each responsible for one injury among the numerous tornadoes reported that day across Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky. There were also many reports hail and damaging winds from northwestern Indiana through southern Michigan and also along the Ohio River. Tornadoes were also reported in southeastern Missouri on the 24th. An EF-2 tornado near Patton, Missouri injured one person.
- The Midwest spent the entire month of March free of drought, and even abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Prior to the stretch of no abnormally dry or drought conditions that began on February 26th, such conditions only occurred during two other weeks since the start of the U.S. Drought Monitor in January 2000. Soils in the Midwest were at or near saturation in many areas, particularly in Iowa, southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois.
- 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 close to normal across the Southeast this March, with warmer temperatures in the middle of the month balanced by cooler temperatures towards the beginning and end of the month. The northern portion of the region saw slightly below average maximum daytime temperatures, ranging from 0 to 6 degrees F (0 to 3 degrees C) below normal. Many stations ranked in the top ten coldest, including Covington, VA (1960-2019; 7th coldest), and Yadkinville, NC (1957-2019; 9th coldest). The southern portion of the region saw slightly above average maximum daytime temperatures ranging from 0 to 5 degrees F (0 to 2.5 degrees C) above normal. A few stations ranked in the top ten warmest, including Hialeah, FL (1941-2019; 8th warmest), and Gainesville, FL (1960-2019; 9th warmest). The northern portion of the region, experienced slightly below average nighttime minimum temperatures, ranging from 0 to 6 degrees F (0 to 3 degrees C) below normal. The southern portion of the region experienced slightly above average nighttime minimum temperatures ranging from 0 to 4 degrees F (0 to 2 degrees C) above normal. Stations that ranked in the top ten coldest included Covington, VA (1960-2019; 5th coldest) and Mount Mitchell, NC (1980-2019; 9th coldest). Stations that ranked in the top ten warmest included Jacksonville, FL (1944 -2019; T-4th warmest). On March 4th, the temperature in Atlanta, GA (1878-2019) reached 30 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C), ending a 32 consecutive day streak of minimum temperatures above 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). This was the 5th longest streak (from December to March) with minimum temperatures above freezing, the first occurring in 1956-1957 at 43 days. By March 6-7, the cold air provided the lowest minimums of the month in several places. Charlottesville, VA (1962-2019) and Richmond, VA (1871-2019) both recorded a minimum of 21 degrees F (-6.1 degrees C) on March 7th; New Bern, NC (1948-2019) recorded 23 degrees F (-5 degrees C); Wilmington, NC (1871-2019) and Florence, SC (1948-2019) recorded 27 degrees F (-2.7 degrees C); and Tallahassee, FL (1896-2019) and Alma, GA (1948-2019) were also below freezing at 31 degrees F (-0.5 degrees C) on March 7th. In mid-March, The Bermuda High shifted westward, thus forcing the storm track north of the region and allowing for temperatures to warm. On March 14-15, the region recorded the warmest maximum temperatures of the month for many stations, including: Gainesville, FL (1890-2019) at 88 degrees F (31.1 degrees C), Savannah, GA (1871-2019) at 86 degrees F (30 degrees C), and Norfolk (1871-2019) at 81 degrees F (27.2 degrees C). Although Puerto Rico was around average for temperatures this month, Arecibo Observatory (1980 -2019) recorded the lowest minimum temperature at 44 degrees F (6.6 degrees C).
- Although the winter season was very wet, precipitation across the Southeast was more than 3 inches (mm) below normal in many areas for March, with much of it falling at the tail ends of the month. On March 4th, the 2nd longest streak of days with measurable rain came to an end in Mobile, AL (1871-2019) at 15 days. The first longest streak was in July 1945 at 17 days. Toward the end of the month, 2.69 inches (68.3 mm) of rain fell at Washington Dulles (1962-2019), making it the wettest March day on record. The previous record was 8 years ago in 2011 with 2.30 inches (58.4 mm) of rain. As mentioned above, the Bermuda High shifted a little westward during the middle of the month, and this led to dry conditions across much of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and southeastern South Carolina. Monthly precipitation totals were 50 to less than 5 percent of normal in these areas. Many stations ranked in the top 5 driest including: Pensacola, FL (1879-2019; 0.15 inches (3.81 mm); 2nd driest), Robertsdale, AL (1913-2019; 0.38 inches (9.7 mm); 3rd driest), and Charleston, SC (1938-2019; 0.69 inches (17.5 mm); 4th driest) A mid-latitude cyclone and associated cold front produced modest, maximum one-day rainfall totals for the month including: Atlanta, GA (1878 - 2019; 1.13 inches (28.7 mm)), Savannah, GA (1871 - 2019; 1.08 inches (27.4 mm)), Asheville, NC (1869 - 2019; 0.45 inches (11.43 mm)), and Charleston, SC (1938 - 2019; 0.29 inches (7.4 mm)). It was dry in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well. St. Croix (1951-2019) measured 0.02 inches (0.51mm) of precipitation ranking it the driest March on record but also tying for the second driest month of all. Snow was mostly confined to the mountains of western North Carolina and Virginia. Mill Gap, VA (1976-2019) measured 6.1 inches (155 mm) of snowfall, the highest in the region for the month, while Mt. Mitchell, NC (1980-2019) measured 3.5 inches (89 mm).
- There were 289 severe weather reports across the Southeast during March, which is near the median monthly frequency of 217 reports during 2000–2016. There were 47 confirmed tornadoes for March, which is more than double the average value of 18. The strongest of these tornadoes was ranked an EF-4 with winds reaching 170 mph (km/s) through Alabama in the counties of Macon and Lee. This tornado continued its 68.8 mile track through Muscogee, Harris and Talbot counties in Georgia, but lost some strength as it ranked EF-3. Multiple homes were damaged, and trees and power lines were brought down. This is the first EF-4 tornado that has occurred in the United States within the past two years. Another EF-3 tornado went through Leon and Jefferson counties in Florida with a track length of 6.5 miles. Seven tornadoes were ranked EF-2, 21 were ranked EF-1 and 10 were ranked EF-0. Tornadoes were also accompanied by strong winds during the storm outbreak: the University of Georgia weather network, for example, reported a wind gust of 102.5 mph (km) in Cairo, GA. There were 83 high wind reports total and 17 hail reports with this outbreak. Unfortunately, this severe weather outbreak resulted in 23 fatalities and over 100 injuries. Between March 25th & 27th, severe thunderstorms produced over 35 wind & hail reports in Alabama, Georgia & Florida. Thunderstorms associated with this system produced hen egg (2.00 inches mm) and golf ball (1.75 inches mm) sized hail in Brevard County Florida. This is the second consecutive March with hail 2.0 inches (50.8 mm) in size or greater. Hail of this size has only been observed on 28 of the prior 67 years (from 1950-2017).
- Drier conditions during the month caused drought conditions to expand across the region in coverage. Abnormally dry (D0) conditions covered 27 percent of the Southeast, in an area stretching from extreme southeastern North Carolina through much of South Carolina, south central Georgia, southeastern Alabama, and portions of Florida. Moderate drought (D1) conditions covered about 3 percent of the region from the coastal South Carolina, through small sections of Georgia and a small part of southeastern Alabama. Drought conditions improved slightly for Puerto Rico with the month ending at 30 percent in moderate drought (D1) conditions and 87 percent in abnormally dry (D0) conditions and. During the month of March, the threat of spring freezes is always a concern, and on March 6-7, temperatures in Georgia dipped below freezing just weeks after many peach trees and blueberry bushes started to bloom. The dry March was a welcomed relief for parts of the Southeast that have received much above normal precipitation this past winter. The hailstorm that hit Florida on March 26th damaged many young watermelon plants, potentially delaying, and in some cases destroying much of this year’s crop.
- For more information, please go to the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- High Plains Region: (Information provided by the High Plains Regional Climate Center )
- The combination of antecedent conditions and a strong storm system produced an historic flooding event in March for parts of the region, hitting eastern Nebraska especially hard. To put this event into context, soils were quite moist from wet fall conditions going into the winter season throughout eastern portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas. Bitterly cold temperatures kept soils frozen and moisture in place during mid-late winter. Winter snowfall was plentiful in these areas, with an impressive snowpack in place by mid-March. Then, a powerful storm system and warmer temperatures brought several inches of rain to portions of eastern Nebraska, causing a rapid melting of snow and high runoff due to the frozen soils. Rainfall and snowmelt overwhelmed streams and rivers throughout the region, many of which still contained ice, causing major flooding. Multiple dams and levees were breached, prompting flash flood emergencies for several communities. Record crests occurred on the Big Blue, Elkhorn, Loup, Missouri, and Platte Rivers in Nebraska. Numerous state highways were closed and even washed out, cutting off transportation to and from several communities. Railroads and bridges were damaged from ice jams and flooding. Livestock perished, and several people died after being swept away by floodwaters. Initial damage estimates have already exceeded $1 billion.
- The growing season is quickly approaching, and producers have begun to assess the impact of harsh winter conditions on fields and planting decisions. Late planting is nearly a certainty this season due to the prolonged winter, as soils are thawing slowly and fields are muddy from excessive moisture. If wet conditions continue, the risk for crop disease will be high. Winter wheat damage has already been reported in Kansas and South Dakota. Winter wheat was damaged from exposure to extreme cold with no snow cover in Kansas, while constant melting and refreezing damaged the wheat in South Dakota. Winter conditions took a toll on livestock as well. Extreme cold and blizzard conditions hit the region just as calving season began, and cattle got stuck in muddy fields and were buried by snow.
- The cold pattern experienced throughout the region in February continued into March. With the exception of southern Colorado, temperatures were below normal for the month throughout the High Plains. Temperature departures ranged from 3.0-6.0 degrees F (1.7-3.3 degrees C) below normal in the southern part of the region to 6.0-9.0 degrees F (3.3-5.0 degrees C) below normal across the northern High Plains. These chilly conditions resulted in several locations ranking among the top 10 of coldest Marches on record: Chadron, NE (6th), Pierre, SD (10th), Laramie, WY (10th), and Rawlins, WY (10th).
- The coldest temperatures of the month arrived on the 3rd and 4th for much of the region. Several locations in Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming dipped below -20.0 degrees F (-28.9 degrees C). These temperatures were record-breaking in Nebraska. For instance, it got down to -21.0 degrees F (-29.4 degrees C) in Chadron on the 3rd, while the temperature fell to -25.0 degrees F (-31.7 degrees C) in North Platte on the 4th. These temperatures were the coldest ever recorded during any March at these two locations (Chadron period of record 1941-2019, North Platte period of record 1874-2019).
- It was a long winter for the High Plains, especially in the northern part of the region where temperatures remained below freezing for long periods of time. The following locations had impressive runs for consecutive days of maximum temperatures below 32.0 degrees F (0.0 degrees C): Fargo, ND, 6th longest, 63 days from January 8-March 11, 2019 (period of record 1881-2019); and Aberdeen, SD, 6th longest, 43 days from January 28-March 11, 2019 (period of record 1893-2019).
- The High Plains experienced precipitation extremes across the region during March, as some areas were excessively wet while others were very dry. A large area of wetness extended from Colorado northeast through southeastern Wyoming, Nebraska, and southeastern South Dakota. This region received approximately 150-300 percent of normal precipitation, which resulted in numerous locations ranking in the top 10 for wettest March on record. Meanwhile, dryness prevailed throughout northern and western North Dakota, with these areas receiving less than 25 percent of normal precipitation. Williston, North Dakota only received 0.01 inches (0 mm) of precipitation the entire month, tying 1966 for its driest March on record (period of record 1894-2019).
- Extremes in snowfall across the High Plains were evident in March as well. Several winter storms traversed the region, adding to the already impressive snowfall totals for the season. For instance, Scottsbluff, Nebraska had its snowiest March on record with 30.8 inches (78 cm), breaking its previous March snowfall record of 26.0 inches (66 cm) that was set in 1906 (period of record 1893-2019). Meanwhile, portions of western Colorado missed out on plentiful snowfall. In fact, Grand Junction did not record any snow and tied multiple years for least snowiest March on record, despite having its 2nd wettest March (period of record 1893-2019). This can be attributed to temperature, as temperatures mostly remained above freezing throughout the month so that precipitation fell as rain instead of snow.
- The most notable storm system to impact the region during March was a very strong mid-latitude cyclone that produced large amounts of snowfall and hurricane-force winds throughout northeastern Colorado, southeastern Wyoming, the Nebraska Panhandle, and southwestern South Dakota on the 13th. Although unofficial, this storm produced near-record-low barometric pressure in Colorado and Kansas and, according to the National Weather Service in Denver/Boulder, the storm produced the 2nd highest non-thunderstorm wind gust ever recorded in the Denver area. The storm also produced over a foot of snow in some locations, setting impressive records. The following locations ranked in the top 5 for highest 1-day total snowfall in March: Scottsbluff, NE (12.0 inches (30 cm), tied for highest); Casper, WY (13.6 inches (35 cm), 2nd highest); and Cheyenne, WY (14.0 inches (36 cm), 2nd highest).
- Snowfall was plentiful throughout Colorado and Wyoming during March. As of the beginning of April, Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) was above normal in all basins in Colorado. In Wyoming, SWE was above normal in southeast basins, slightly below normal in north-central basins, and near normal elsewhere. In the Upper Missouri Basin, mountain SWE above Fort Peck Reservoir and between Fort Peck and Garrison Reservoirs decreased slightly to 97 percent of average and 93 percent of average, respectively, by the end of March. SWE was slightly above average in both reaches one month ago. Plains snowpack was impressive during the first half of March, with the majority of the region covered in snow. However, a warm-up along with rain in some areas caused snow to melt, and portions of western North Dakota, southern and eastern South Dakota, and eastern Nebraska were snow free by the end of March.
- Thanks to a continuation of wet conditions in drought-stricken areas, drought conditions improved in several locations during March. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the area in the High Plains experiencing abnormally dry or drought conditions (D0-D4) decreased from approximately 31 percent to 11 percent over the course of the month, while areas experiencing drought (D1-D4) decreased from 14 percent to only 2 percent. As of the end of March, severe drought (D2) and extreme drought (D3) conditions no longer existed in the region.
- Mountain snowpack in Colorado continued to build nicely during March, allowing for additional drought relief. The small area of D3 in the extreme southern part of the state, as well as the large area of D2 throughout southern and central Colorado were eliminated, and areas experiencing moderate drought (D1) and abnormally dry conditions (D0) were significantly reduced to include only southern areas of the state. Improvements were made in southern Wyoming and the Nebraska Panhandle as well. The major winter storm that crossed the region mid-month brought enough snowfall to alleviate drought and dryness in these areas.
- The only area that experienced a degradation in drought conditions during March was north-central Wyoming. This region missed out on several storm systems during the past few months, and March precipitation was less than 50 percent of normal, prompting the expansion of D0 into this area from the west.
- For more information, please go to 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 below normal across much of the region. Parts of central, north-central, and western Texas, northeastern Oklahoma, and northern Arkansas experienced temperatures 4 to 6 degrees F (2.22 to 3.33 degrees C) below normal. Parts of southern, central, western, eastern, and northern Texas, northwestern and northeastern Louisiana, northern Mississippi, and central and western Tennessee as well as most of Oklahoma and Arkansas experienced temperatures 2 to 4 degrees F (1.11 to 2.22 degrees C) below normal. One exception to the below normal conditions can be found in extreme western Texas, which experienced temperatures 0 to 4 degrees F (0.00 to 2.22 degrees C) above normal. The statewide monthly average temperatures were as follows: Arkansas – 49.30 degrees F (9.61 degrees C), Louisiana – 58.00 degrees F (14.44 degrees C), Mississippi – 54.40 degrees F (12.44 degrees C), Oklahoma – 48.20 degrees F (9.00 degrees C), Tennessee – 46.80 degrees F (8.22 degrees C), and Texas – 56.00 degrees F (13.33 degrees C). The statewide temperature rankings for March were as follows: Arkansas (thirty-seventh coldest), Louisiana (fifty-first coldest), Mississippi (forty-sixth coldest), Oklahoma (forty-fourth coldest), Tennessee (thirty-ninth coldest), and Texas (fifty-first coldest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2019.
- Precipitation values for the month of March were below normal across much of the Southern Region. Parts of southern Mississippi, central and southern Louisiana, and eastern, central, southern, and western Texas received 50 percent or less of normal precipitation. Parts of central and southern Louisiana as well as south-central, southeastern, and extreme western Texas received 25 percent or less of normal precipitation. Parts of south-central and extreme western Texas received 5 percent or less of normal precipitation. In contrast, parts of eastern and western Tennessee, southeastern Arkansas, western Oklahoma, and northern, extreme western, and extreme southern Texas received 110 percent or more of normal precipitation. Parts of northern, extreme western and extreme southern Texas received precipitation 150 percent or more of normal. The statewide precipitation totals for the month were as follows: Arkansas – 3.62 inches (91.93 mm), Louisiana – 1.87 inches (47.50 mm), Mississippi – 2.91 inches (73.91 mm), Oklahoma – 2.51 inches (63.75 mm), Tennessee – 3.77 inches (95.76 mm), and Texas – 1.13 inches (28.70 mm). The state precipitation rankings for March were as follows: Arkansas (thirty-seventh driest), Louisiana (eighth driest), Mississippi (ninth driest), Oklahoma (fifty-fifth wettest), Tennessee (twenty-sixth driest), and Texas (fortieth driest). All state rankings are based on the period spanning 1895-2019.
- At the end of March, drought conditions both improved and degraded across parts of the Southern Region. Severe drought classifications developed across southern Texas, the first appearance of severe drought in the region this year. Moderate drought classifications were still present in parts of southern and central Texas, with some new areas appearing in southern Texas. However, conditions improved to the point where moderate drought conditions were removed across northern and extreme western Texas as well as southwestern Oklahoma. There were no drought conditions in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. There was a slight decrease in the overall area experiencing abnormally dry conditions, as areas in northern and western Texas as well as western Oklahoma saw improvement. However, abnormally dry conditions developed across parts of eastern Texas, central and southern Louisiana, and southern Mississippi.
- In March, there were a total of 351 storm reports across Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. There were 24 tornado reports, 121 hail reports, and 206 wind reports. Texas tallied the most tornado (11), hail (63), and wind reports (110). Texas tallied the most reports total (184) while Louisiana tallied the least (19). Every state except for Oklahoma reported tornadoes, and every state except for Tennessee reported hail.
- On March 8, 2019, there were several reports of wind gusts exceeding 60 mph (96.56 kph) in northern Texas. A wind gust of 71 mph (114.26 kph) was reported near Childress, Texas, while a wind gust of 80 mph (128.75 kph) was reported near Turkey, Texas.
- On March 9, 2019, there were approximately 80 storm reports issued across every state in the region. There were 14 tornado reports across Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. One tornado caused at least two injuries near Estes, Arkansas. The largest hail report indicated ping-pong ball sized hail near Brownsboro, Texas. Wind gusts of 60 mph (96.56 kph) were reported near the towns of Paris, De Queen, Clarksville, and Vilonia, Arkansas as well as near Pittsburg, Texas. There were multiple reports of trees and power lines blown down and houses receiving damage, with one report indicating several manufactured homes were damaged or destroyed near Pineflat, Mississippi.
- On March 12, 2019, there were 74 storm reports across Texas. Baseball sized hail was reported near Pecos, Texas, with at least one vehicle reported destroyed. A tornado overturned a small residence near Junction, Texas, with no injuries reported. Wind gusts of 80 mph (128.75 kph) were reported near Granbury and Grand Prairie, Texas, while a 78 mph (125.53 kph) wind gust was reported at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Also, the McDonald Observatory in Jeff Davis County, Texas reported two wind gusts of 79 mph (127.14 kph) almost two hours apart.
- On March 13, 2019, there were 23 wind reports across Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. A wind gust of 65 mph (104.61 kph) was reported near Marshall, Texas and a wind gust of 64 mph (103.00 kph) was reported near Jonesboro, Arkansas. There were also several reports of trees and power lines blown down.
- On March 22, 2019, there were 32 storm reports across Texas and Oklahoma. There were 5 tornado reports in Texas, although no damage was reported. Baseball sized hail was reported near Hereford, Texas and tennis-ball sized hail was reported near Canyon and Goodnight, Texas. A wind gust of 67 mph (107.83 kph) was reported near Hereford, Texas, while wind gusts exceeding 60 mph (96.56 kph) were reported near Weatherford and Okarche, Oklahoma.
- On March 24, 2019, there was a report of grapefruit sized hail near McKinney, Texas and a report of baseball sized hail near Howe, Oklahoma.
- For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
- Several storms throughout March brought above normal precipitation in a broad swath extending form central California to western Colorado. Below normal precipitation persisted in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures were below normal across the northern tier of the region, while temperatures in the southwest were slightly warmer than normal.
- Below normal temperatures were observed this month in much of the West. In Montana, Bozeman reported a monthly average temperature of 17.5 F (-8 C), 19 F (11 C) below normal, and the coldest March on record since 1941. Walla Walla, WA also reported their coldest March since records began in 1949, with an average temperature of 37.8 F (3.2 C), 8.5 F (5 C) below normal. Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming also continued to observe cold temperatures, with most locations ranging between 4-11 F (2-6 C) below normal. California and Nevada observed near normal to slightly below normal temperatures. In contrast to below normal temperatures in the northern part of the region, several locations in the Southwest reported above normal temperatures. Tucson, Arizona, reported an average temperature of 61.7 F (16.5 C), 2 F (1 C) above normal; while Socorro, in western New Mexico, observed an average temperature of 53.7 F (12 C), 4 F (2 C) above normal and the 9th warmest March since records began in 1893.
- Precipitation was above normal in several regions throughout the Intermountain West. In eastern Nevada, Ely recorded 3.35 in (85 mm), 360% of normal and the 2nd wettest March since observations began in 1888. Nephi, Utah, recorded 3.71 in (94 mm), 227% of normal and the 3rd wettest March since records began in 1904. California also observed above normal precipitation. In the northern Central Valley, Redding recorded 9.33 in (237 mm), 213% of normal. Furnace Creek, in California’s Death Valley, recorded 1.11 in (28 mm), 370% of normal and was the 5th wettest March on record. The Southwest was generally drier than normal, with the expectation of eastern Arizona and Northern New Mexico where precipitation was 150-200% of normal. Further north, the Pacific Northwest was significantly drier than normal. Portland, Oregon, recorded 1.54 in (39 mm), 42% of normal and the 6th driest March on record. In Washington, Port Angeles observed 0.30 in (8 mm), 12% of normal and the driest March on record.
- Above normal precipitation seen in the winter months continued in March for California and Intermountain West, supporting large areas of improvement in drought conditions. Only 9% of the West is experiencing moderate or worse drought conditions, compared with 26% at the end of February. Large areas of improvement were also observed in Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Oregon and Washington saw some improvement; however, much of the region remains in abnormally dry or moderate drought continues.
- At the end of the March, snowpack remained above normal in most large river basins (HUC-2) of the West. The Rio Grande region observed 138% of median snow water equivalent (SWE), the Upper Colorado 134%, the Lower Colorado 173%, the Great Basin 152%, and California and the Sierra Nevada 168%. Snowpack in the Pacific Northwest and Missouri River regions was near to slightly above normal at 98% and 108% of median, respectively.
- Alaska observed well-above normal temperatures statewide. In western Alaska, Bethel logged its warmest March on record with an average temperature of 30.5 F (-3 C), 15 F (8 C) above normal. Fairbanks also reported its warmest March on record since records began in 1929, with an average temperature of 27.6 F (-2 C), 16 F (9 C) above normal. One of the most impressive departures from normal was observed in Deadhorse on the North Slope, which reported an average temperature of 8 F (-13 C), 24 F (13 C) above normal and its warmest March on record. Precipitation was well below normal across South Central Alaska and above normal north of the Brooks Range. Anchorage observed 0.06 in (1.5 mm), less than 1% of normal, while Barrow reported 0.44 in (11 mm), 489% of normal. Further south, precipitation was well below normal across the state of Hawaii. Honolulu observed 0.08 in (2 mm) of precipitation and Hilo recorded 4.67 in (119 mm), 4% and 35% of normal, respectively. This was the 5th driest March at Honolulu since records began in 1940. Abnormally dry conditions expanded and/or intensified across the state. At the end of the month, 99% of the state was experiencing abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions.
- All Month: Low Sea Ice Extent in the Bering Sea: By the end of March, sea ice in the Bering Sea reached a maximum extent and began rapidly retreating under anomalously warm conditions. The observed March sea ice extent is the second lowest maximum sea ice extent in the Bering Sea and the lowest March ice extent since satellite records began in 1979.
- March 12: US Drought Monitoring Removes All Drought Designation in California: An active storm track continued across California and the Intermountain West, further alleviating drought conditions in the region. As of March 12, the entire state of California was drought-free, according to the US Drought Monitor, for the first time in eight years.
- March 22-31: Harsh Winter Conditions in Montana: A harsh winter and historic spring flooding is causing significant damage to Montana’s infrastructure and commerce. Spring snow melt and ice jams on major rivers have severely impacted several roads across Montana, including the closure of Interstate 90. Damage to water treatment facilities have left several Montana communities without clean drinking water for several weeks.
- For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.
- Significant Events
Citing This Report
NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: National Climate Report for March 2019, published online April 2019, retrieved on April 24, 2019 from https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/.