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Climate Highlights — March
During March, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 42.6°F, 1.1°F above the 20th century average. This ranked near the median value in the 124-year period of record. Below-average temperatures were observed along parts of the East Coast, Northern High Plains and West. In the East, the cooler-than-average March was preceded by a record and near-record warm February. Some locations observed March temperatures that were cooler than February, an unusual but not unprecedented occurrence. Above-average temperatures were observed across the south-central U.S., stretching from the Central Rockies through the Southwest and the Southern Plains. Above-average temperatures were also observed in parts of New England and the Upper Midwest. The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 53.9°F, 0.9°F above the 20th century average, ranking near the median value. Below-average maximum temperatures were observed across much of the East with much-below-average temperatures in the mid-Atlantic. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed in the Southwest, Central Rockies and Southern Plains. The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during March was 31.4°F, 1.4°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the warmest third of the record. Above-average conditions were observed in the Southwest, New England, and parts of the Rockies and Great Plains. Below-average minimum temperatures were observed across the East Coast from the Mid-Atlantic to Florida and for parts of the Northern High Plains and West. The Alaska March temperature was 17.7°F, 6.9°F above the long-term average. This tied the ninth warmest March in the 94-year period of record for the state. Northern and western Alaska were much warmer than average, with near-average temperatures in southern Alaska. Utqia’vik (Barrow) had its warmest March on record, while Kotzebue had its second warmest and St. Paul its third warmest. During March there were 1,515 record warm daily high (620) and low (985) temperature records, which was about 46 percent more than the 1,031 record cold daily high (663) and low (368) temperature records.
Based on NOAA’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 2 percent above average and ranked near the median value in the 124-year period of record.
The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.42 inches, 0.09 inch below average, and ranked near the median value in the 124-year period of record. During March, four strong winter storms known as Nor’easters impacted the East, bringing heavy snow across parts of the Midwest and from the Southern Appalachians to New England. Some locations in the East had more snow during March than during the preceding winter months combined. Numerous locations had a top five March snowfall total during 2018, including Boston, Massachusetts; Albany, New York; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Above-average precipitation was observed across parts of the West, Northern Rockies and Plains, Midwest and South. The beneficial precipitation helped to boost snowpack totals in parts of the Sierra Nevada, which were below-average during much of their wet season. However, snowpack totals remained below average in the region. Below-average precipitation was observed across parts of Northwest, Southwest, Great Lakes, Southeast and East Coast. The general lack of precipitation and above-average temperatures in the Southwest contributed to a continuation of very low snowpack in the Southern Rockies and parts of the Great Basin. According to the April 3 U.S. Drought Monitor report, 29.4 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down from 31.3 percent at the end of February. Drought conditions improved in California, the Northwest, Northern Plains, and parts of the Southern Plains, Mid-Mississippi Valley and interior Southeast. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Southwest, Central Plains, southern Texas and the coastal Southeast. Drought also developed in the Alaska Panhandle due to several months of below-average precipitation. According to NOAA data analyzed by Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March snow cover extent was 303,860 square miles above the 1981-2010 average and ranked as the sixth highest value in the 52-year period of record. This was the highest March snow cover extent since 1979. Above-average snow cover was observed across parts of the West, Northern Rockies, Northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast. Below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Southern Rockies, Central Plains and Great Lakes.