National Overview - March 2015


NCDC added Alaska climate divisions to its nClimDiv dataset on Friday, March 6, 2015, coincident with the release of the February 2015 monthly monitoring report. For more information on this data, please visit the Alaska Climate Divisions FAQ.

Maps and Graphics

Temperature and Precipitation Ranks
U.S. Percentage Areas
More Information

National Overview:



March Extreme Weather/Climate Events

Supplemental March 2015 Information


 Average Temperature Departures (March)
March Average Temperature Departures
 March Percent of Average Precip
March Percent of Average Precipitation

  • Climate Highlights — March
  • March 2015 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

    March 2015 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
    March 2015 Statewide Temperature and Precipitation ranks
  • The March contiguous U.S. average temperature was 45.4°F, 3.9°F above the 20th century average — the 12th warmest March on record and warmest since 2012.
  • Fifteen states across the Southeast, Northern Plains, and West had a March temperature that was much above average. Along the Pacific Coast, California, Oregon, and Washington each had their second warmest March on record. No state was record warm.
  • Five states in New England had a March temperature that was much below average. No state was record cold, but Massachusetts and Rhode Island each had a top 10 cold March.
  • The March Lower 48 precipitation total was 2.08 inches, 0.43 inch below average, tying with 1971 as the 19th driest March on record.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed along both the East and West Coasts, connected by drier-than-average states across the northern tier. Twelve states had a March precipitation total that was much below average. The largest precipitation departures from average were in the Central and Northern Plains, where Nebraska and South Dakota each had their second driest March. Parts of central Nebraska were record dry. Iowa had its third driest March. California had its eighth driest March.
  • Above-average precipitation was observed from the Southern Plains into the Ohio Valley. Texas had its fourth wettest March with 3.35 inches of precipitation, 1.66 inches above average. The southern climate division in Texas had its wettest March on record, with 355 percent of average precipitation.
  • According to the March 31st U.S. Drought Monitor report, 36.8 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up from 31.9 percent at the beginning of March. Drought conditions worsened across parts of the Central Rockies as well as the Central and Northern Plains and the Upper Midwest where spring drought could impact the upcoming growing season. Drought remained entrenched in the West, where mountain snowpack was record low for many locations in the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains. Abnormally dry conditions developed in parts of the Southeast and Northeast. Drought improved in the Southern Plains and the Mid- to Lower-Mississippi River Valley.
  • According to analysis of NOAA data by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab, the March contiguous U.S. snow cover extent was 500,000 square miles, 244,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average. This marked the fifth smallest March snow cover extent in the 49-year period of record. Below-average snow cover and snowpack was observed across much of the West and Great Plains, while above-average snow cover was observed in the Northeast. In the West, mountain snowpack for the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountains was dismal with many locations having record low snowpack on April 1th.
  • March typically marks the beginning of severe weather season in the United States. According to NOAA's Storm Prediction Center, during March 2015 there were 13 preliminary tornado reports compared to the 1991-2010 average of 80. This marks the third lowest March tornado count in the 1950-present period of record and the lowest since 1969. One tornado-related fatality was reported near Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 25th — the first of 2015.
  • Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 10 percent below average and the 50th lowest in the 1895-2015 period of record.
  • During March, there were 5,534 warm daily temperature records (3,105 daily warm maximum temperature records and 2,429 daily warm minimum temperature records) broken or tied while there were 2,550 cold daily temperature records (1,365 daily cold maximum temperature records and 1,185 daily cold minimum temperature records) broken or tied.
  • Climate Highlights — year-to-date (January 2015-March 2015)
  • Jan-March 2015 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

    Jan-March 2015 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
    January-March 2015 Statewide Temperature and Precipitation ranks
  • The year-to-date contiguous U.S. average temperature was 37.2°F, 2.0°F above the 20th century average, and the 24th warmest January-March on record. Record warmth engulfed much of the West, where seven states were record warm, and an additional five states, including Alaska, had temperatures that were much above average. California's year-to-date temperature of 53.0°F was 7.5°F above average. This bested the previous record set just last year by 1.8°F and was 2.6°F warmer than the third warmest January-March on record that occurred in 1986.
  • Below-average January-March temperatures were observed across the South, the Midwest, and Northeast where 16 states had a much cooler than average January-March period. New York and Vermont were both record cold for the year to date. The New York year-to-date temperature was 16.9°F, 6.8°F below average, dropping below the previous record of 17.4°F set in 1912. The Vermont January-March temperature was 13.3°F, 6.4°F below average, tying January-March 1923.
  • The REDTI for January-March was 14 percent above average and the 43rd highest in the 120-year period of record.
  • The year-to-date contiguous U.S. precipitation total was 5.66 inches, 1.30 inches below the 20th century average, and the 7th driest January-March on record. This was the driest first three months of a year since 1988.
  • Below-average precipitation was observed across the West and much of the northern half of the nation. Twelve states had much below average precipitation during the first three months of 2015, with parts of Nevada, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, and Minnesota record dry. South Dakota had its driest January-March on record with a precipitation total of 0.85 inches, 1.21 inches below average. Above-average precipitation was observed across the Southern Rockies and Plains.
  • The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date was nine percent above average and the 11th highest value on record. The warm West and cold East temperature pattern during January-March contributed to the much above average USCEI, with the components that measure both warm and cold daytime and nighttime temperatures being much above average. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (falling in the upper or lower 10 percent of the record) in temperature, precipitation, and drought across the contiguous United States.
  • Climate Highlights — cold season (October 2014-March 2015)
  • Oct-March 2015 Statewide Temperature Ranks Map

    Oct-March 2015 Statewide Precipitation Ranks Map
    October 2014-March 2015 Statewide Temperature and Precipitation ranks
  • The cold season average temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 40.7°F, 1.7°F above the 20th century average and the 15th warmest on record.
  • Locations from the Rockies to the West Coast were much warmer than average. Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington each had their warmest cold season on record. Six additional states had one of their 10 warmest cold seasons.
  • Alaska had its third warmest cold season on record with a temperature of 15.7°F, 5.9°F above average. Only the cold seasons of 2002/03 and 2000/01 were warmer.
  • Below-average temperatures stretched from the Mississippi River Valley to the East Coast. While no state was top 10 cold, Ohio had its 12th coldest cold season on record. Across the East, a warm start to the cold season nearly balanced record and near-record cold temperatures at the end of the six-month period.
  • The contiguous U.S. cold season precipitation total was 12.80 inches, 0.90 inch below average, marking the 31th driest October-March on record. Below-average precipitation was observed from the West Coast, through the Northern Plains, and into the Northeast. Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah each had a top 10 dry cold season. Texas was wetter than average, while no state had a top 10 wet six-month period.
  • The REDTI for the cold season was 3 percent below average and the 48th lowest in the 120-year period of record.
  • The USCEI for the cold season was six percent above average and the 22nd highest value in the 105-year period of record. Extremes in warm daytime temperatures and cold nighttime temperatures were the largest contributors to the elevated USCEI.

**A comparison of the national temperature departure from average as calculated by NCDC's operational dataset (nClimDiv), the U.S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN), and the U.S. Climate Reference Network (USCRN) is available on our National Temperature Index page.**



Regional Highlights:

These regional summaries were provided by the six Regional Climate Centers and reflect conditions in their respective regions. These six regions differ spatially from the nine climatic regions of the National Climatic Data Center.

  • Northeast Region: (Information provided by the Northeast Regional Climate Center)
  • March was another colder-than-normal month in the Northeast. The region's average temperature of 29.2 degrees F (-1.6 degrees C) was 5.2 degrees F (2.9 degrees C) below normal, making it the 17th coldest March since 1895. All twelve states were colder than normal, with nine ranking the month among their top 20 coldest Marches on record: Rhode Island, 8th coldest; Massachusetts, 11th coldest; New Hampshire and Maine, 12th coldest; Connecticut, 13th coldest; New York, 15th coldest; Vermont, 17th coldest; and Pennsylvania, 18th coldest; and New Jersey, 20th coldest. Departures for the states ranged from 6.3 degrees F (3.5 degrees C) below normal in New York to 1.9 degrees F (1.1 degrees C) below normal in West Virginia. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had its lowest temperature ever recorded in March with a low of -5 degrees F (-21 degrees C) on the 6th. The following day, on the 7th, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, had its coldest-ever March day with a low of -1 degree F (-18 degrees C).
  • The Northeast wrapped up March with below-normal precipitation. The region saw 2.75 inches (69.85 mm) of precipitation, 78 percent of normal. Eight states were drier than normal, with four ranking the month among their top 12 driest Marches on record: Vermont, 5th driest; New York, 6th driest; New Hampshire, 11th driest; and Maine, 12th driest. Departures for the dry states ranged from 40 percent of normal in Vermont to 92 percent of normal in Pennsylvania. For the wet states, departures ranged from 104 percent of normal in Maryland to 138 percent of normal in West Virginia, making it the state's 20th wettest March on record.
  • The U.S. Drought Monitor released on March 5 showed abnormally dry conditions were present across parts of West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York (totaling 17 percent of the Northeast). Dryness eased in West Virginia and most of Maryland mid-month, but expanded in New York. By month's end, abnormal dryness had expanded even more in New York and Pennsylvania and was introduced in Vermont and a portion of Massachusetts. Overall, 25 percent of the region was abnormally dry as of March 26.
  • The largest winter storm of the month moved through the region from March 4 to 5, dropping up to 13 inches (33 cm) of snow. From early to mid-March, parts of West Virginia and western Pennsylvania dealt with flooding, which caused numerous road closures and evacuations. Mudslides and river ice caused damage in West Virginia. On March 15, Boston, Massachusetts, reached 108.6 inches (275.8 cm) of snow for the season, surpassing its old record for snowiest season (1995-96) by 1 inch (2.5 cm). Islip, New York, had its snowiest March on record with 19.7 inches (50.0 cm), beating the old record of 13.6 inches (34.5 cm) set in 2009. Syracuse had its greatest number of consecutive days with at least two feet (61 cm) of snow on the ground, with 19 days (from February 19 to March 9), while Binghamton had its longest stretch of at least one foot (30 cm) of snow on the ground, with 40 days (from February 2 to March 13). Cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, were expected to peak about a week later than normal due, in part, to cold temperatures in early March, while the weather and muddy conditions delayed fieldwork for many farmers.
  • For more information, please go to the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Midwest Region: (Information provided by the Midwest Regional Climate Center)
  • Average temperatures across the Midwestern region during the month of March ranged from 20.0 to 25.0 degrees F (-6.7 to -3.9 degrees C) along the shores of the Great Lakes, warming to the lower to middle 30s degrees F (-1.1 to 1.7 degrees C) through Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin, across northeast Iowa, and across northern Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Average temperatures of 35.0-40.0 degrees F (1.7 to 4.4 degrees C) extended from northwest to southeast Iowa, across central Illinois, central Indiana, and the southern half of Ohio. Regions south of this line saw average temperatures of 45.0-50.0 degrees F (7.2 to 10.0 degrees C) with southwest Missouri and southern Kentucky having experienced average temperatures of 50.0-55.0 degrees F (10.0 to 12.8 degrees C). In relation to the average, these temperatures were below normal across the central portion of the region, with Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, southeast Missouri, and the northwest half of Kentucky experiencing average temperatures 2.0 – 4.0 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees C) below normal. Minnesota, the northern half of Wisconsin, the western half of Iowa, and northwest Missouri experienced average temperatures 2.0 – 4.0 degrees F (1.1 to 2.2 degrees C) above average. The warmer temperatures in the western portions of the region were more influenced by daily observed maximum temperatures, and the colder temperatures over the central portion of the region were more influenced by daily observed minimum temperatures. Preliminary data shows that new records were established for observed daily lowest minimum temperatures across a majority of the region March 1-2nd, March 6th, (near and below freezing temperatures) and March 28-30th (teens to 20 degrees F (-9.4 to -6.7 degrees C)). Preliminary data also shows that new records were established for observed daily highest maximum temperatures across Minnesota and northern Wisconsin March 10-11th, 2015 and March 13-15th with high temperatures ranging in the 60s to 70s (15.6 to 23.9 degrees C), and an observed maximum high temperature of 81 degrees F (27.2 degrees C) in Little Sioux, Iowa on March 15th. Again on March 16-17th temperatures reached into the 70s and 80s degrees F (21.1 to 29.4 degrees C) across Minnesota and also in the lower portions of Missouri and southern Illinois. The high temperature in Sioux City reached 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) on March 16th. Iowa has only seen a monthly temperature extreme of -17 degrees F (-27.2 degrees C) to 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) during the month of March in three other years: 1943, 1959, and 1962 (period of record: 1872-2015). While Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin all witnessed warmer than normal temperatures for March, rankings were not within the top 20 warmest March on record: Iowa saw its 38th warmest March on record (1895-2015 – all states); Minnesota saw its 23rd warmest March on record; and Wisconsin saw its 39th warmest March on record. Despite the daily observed, record-breaking cold spells through March in the eastern states of the region, rankings were also not in the top 20 coldest March on record: Illinois experienced its 44th coldest March on record; Indiana – 37th coldest on record; Kentucky – 49th coldest on record; Michigan – 56th coldest on record; Missouri – 62nd coldest on record; and Ohio – 34th coldest on record. The Midwestern region overall was 1.0 degrees F (0.56 degrees C) below normal, ranking as the 68th coldest March on record.
  • Precipitation for the month of March was primarily concentrated along the Ohio River Valley resulting in Kentucky having its 26th wettest March on record (period of record all states:1895-2015) observing 6.11 inches (155.2 mm) of precipitation and Ohio having its 50th wettest March on record observing 3.49 inches (88.6 mm) of precipitation. Greater than normal accumulated precipitation ranging from 1.0 to 4.0 inches (25.4 to 101.6 mm) fell across the southeast half of Missouri, the southern one-third of Illinois, the southern half of Indiana, the southern two-thirds of Ohio, and all of Kentucky. All other locations saw accumulated precipitation values 1.0 to 2.0 inches (25.4 to 50.8 mm) below normal. As a percentage of normal, the Ohio River Valley regions were 75 to 200 percent above normal while those locations with values 1.0 to 2.0 inches (25.4 to 50.8 mm) below normal only recorded 10 to 75 percent of normal accumulated precipitation. Iowa ended the month with the largest land area having experienced below normal precipitation, with this land area recording only 10-25 percent of normal accumulated precipitation. A dry period spanning March 4th through the 21st resulted in an Iowa statewide average of observed precipitation to be only 0.01 inches (0.25 mm). The deficit of rainfall across the northwest half of the Midwestern region resulted in Iowa having experienced its third driest March on record only observed 0.56 inches (14.2 mm) of precipitation. Michigan recorded its eighth driest March on record, observing only 0.78 inches (19.8 mm) of precipitation, and Minnesota recorded its 13th driest March on record observed only 0.57 inches (14.8 mm) of precipitation. Wisconsin observed only 0.69 inches (17.5 mm) of precipitation, ranking March 2015 as Wisconsin's 10th driest March on record. Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri saw their 41st, 70th, and 69th driest March on record, respectively. Regionally, it was the 34th driest March on record having only observed 2.08 inches (52.8 mm) of precipitation which is 83 percent of normal. Total accumulated precipitation ranged from 0.25 inches to 1.0 inch (6.35 to 25.4 mm) across the northwest half of the region, with 1.0 to 8.0 inches (25.4 – 203.2 mm) accumulated precipitation across the southeast half of the region. The boot heel of Missouri recorded 8.0 inches (203.2 mm) accumulated precipitation, with amounts of 5.0 to 8.0 inches (127.0 – 203.2 mm) falling in southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, southern Indiana and across Kentucky. A system that moved through the Ohio River Valley March 4-5th contributed to the monthly observed accumulated precipitation in the form of snowfall, with 17.1 inches (43.4 cm) of snow recorded from the event in Lexington, Kentucky. According to NWS-Louisville, Lexington, Kentucky broke its record for the heaviest 2-day snowstorm ever with 17.1 inches (43.4 cm) of snow, a record that had been upheld since 1943. The Cincinnati area recorded several inches of snow through March 6th from the same system, resulting in short-lived flood warnings after a warm-up period accompanied by rainfall and snow melt. Accumulated snowfall during March was above normal across most of Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio by several inches, and 8.0 – 16.0 inches (20.3 – 40.6 cm) above normal across north-central Kentucky from the March 4-5th snowstorm. From preliminary data, this early March snowstorm across the Ohio River Valley, along with a system that moved through the upper Midwest March 22-24th dropping snowfall in a narrow region from Minneapolis southeast through Chicago and northern Indiana, resulted in some new daily observed snowfall records. Even with the snowfall event March 22-24th that was confined along the Mississippi River Valley from roughly Minneapolis south and along the Illinois and Wisconsin state line, the northwest states in the region saw accumulated snowfall values 2.0 to 8.0 inches (5.1 to 20.3 cm) below normal.
  • As of March 31st, 2015, the continued deficit of snowfall and precipitation across the upper Midwest region has resulted in the expansion of the drought status to include all of Minnesota and Wisconsin, along with central Michigan, eastern Iowa, and western Illinois between the Illinois and Wisconsin border south to the intersection of the Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois borders. Minnesota is now classified as moderate drought, long term, with the other areas classified as abnormally dry, short-term drought status. This has heightened danger for fire risk, especially across the southern half of Minnesota.
  • Those cities in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in immediate vicinity of Lake Superior recorded over 150 inches (381 cm) of snowfall for the season November 1st, 2014 to March 31, 2015. As of March 21st, Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan ranked as the snowiest U.S. city having observed 158.7 inches (403.1 cm). Total accumulation November 1st, 2014 to March 31st, 2015 for the location was 165.8 inches (421.1 cm).
  • March 18th, 2015 marked the 90th anniversary of the Tri-State Tornado. This long-lived, violent tornado event impacted towns from southeast Missouri where the tornado touched down (approximately 20 miles (32.2 km) southwest of Annapolis, Missouri), and trekked across southern Illinois and into southwest Indiana where the tornado dissipated northeast of Princeton, Indiana. 625 people lost their lives during the event. March is typically when severe weather season begins to ramp-up across tornado alley, and averages 78 tornadoes a month in the United States over the past 20 years. However, through March 23rd, a severe thunderstorm or tornado watch had not been issued for the month. A lack of watches through the 23rd had not happened since 1970. The severe weather and tornadoes reported during the last full week of March in Oklahoma and Arkansas ended the lapse of tornadoes for the month. Hail was reported in Missouri with this event, with most hail stone reports ranging in size from 1 inch (25.4 mm) in diameter to 1.75 inches (44.5 mm) in diameter. Several 2.0-inch (50.8 mm) diameter hail reports were documented in Ozark and Shannon counties in Missouri.
  • The heavy rain and snow that affected most of the southern half of the region in February was followed by above normal temperatures and rain events during the week of March 8-14th 2015. This resulted in snow melt and the addition of more rainfall that led to flooding in the Ohio River Valley. Rainfall events on March 10-11th and March 13-14th heightened flood concerns in the Ohio Valley. Throughout most of the week, the Ohio River was under a flood warning from the Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia tri-state area to the mouth of the Mississippi River. The Ohio River at Cincinnati crested early on March 15th, 2015 at 57.72 feet (17.6 meters) which was the first time the river was over 57 feet (17.4 meters) at the city since 1996. The Wabash River in Indiana was also under a flood warning from Lafayette to the mouth of the Ohio River.
  • For details on the weather and climate events of the Midwest, see the weekly summaries in the Midwest Climate Watch page.
  • Southeast Region: (Information provided by the Southeast Regional Climate Center)
  • Mean temperatures in March were slightly above average across much of the Southeast region, with the exception of Virginia and eastern North Carolina. The greatest departures were found across Florida and portions of southern Alabama and Georgia, where monthly temperatures were 5 to 7 degrees F (2.8 to 3.9 degrees C) above average. Fort Myers, FL (1892–2015) and Miami, FL (1896–2015) observed their second warmest mean temperature for March on record, and Orlando, FL (1892–2015) and Plant City, FL (1893–2015) observed their third warmest March mean temperature on record. These unusually warm conditions were also quite persistent across Florida during the month; for example, Tallahassee (1893–2015) recorded its second greatest number of March days (19) with a maximum temperature of at least 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C). Mean temperatures were near average in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands during the month. The warmest weather occurred on the 10th and 11th, as moist tropical air surged northward ahead of an approaching cold front. During this two-day period, daily maximum temperatures exceeded 70 degrees F (21.1 degrees C) over much of the region and approached the lower 90s F (30s C) in central Florida. In contrast, the coldest weather occurred on the 6th and 7th, as a strong Arctic high pushed southward across the region. Daily minimum temperatures fell below 30 degrees F (-1.1 degrees C) across the entire region, except for Florida and southern portions of Georgia and South Carolina. Charlottesville 2 W, VA (1893–2015) observed its second coldest average 2-day minimum temperature (10.5 degrees F, -11.9 degrees C) on record for March.
  • Precipitation was below normal across much of the Southeast during March. The driest locations were found across portions of southeastern Alabama, southern Georgia, and Florida, where monthly precipitation totals were 2 to 5 inches (50.8 to 127 mm) below normal, or 75 to as little as 10 percent of normal. Melbourne, FL (1938–2015) observed its fourth driest March on record with only 0.43 inch (10.9 mm) of precipitation. In contrast, the wettest locations were found across northern Alabama and western Virginia, where monthly precipitation totals were 1 to 3 inches (25.4 to 76.2 mm) above normal. Huntsville, AL (1894–2015) and Birmingham, AL (1896–2015) observed a record number of days with measurable precipitation (20 and 21 days, respectively) for the month of March. Precipitation was slightly below normal for much of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Snowfall amounts were relatively modest across the region during March, with the exception of northern Virginia, where Washington Dulles Airport (1963–2015) observed its fifth snowiest March on record with 10.5 inches (267 mm) of snowfall.
  • There were 88 severe weather reports across the Southeast during March, and over 70 percent of these reports were for hail. Nearly 80 percent of the monthly severe weather reports were recorded on the 31st of the month, as a cluster of thunderstorms moved southeastward from northern Alabama to southern Georgia. Several isolated reports of damaging thunderstorm winds were also observed during the month. On the 26th, straight-line wind gusts estimated between 70 to 90 mph in Pitt County, NC scattered debris one to two miles downwind and caused significant damage to several homes. The following day, winds exceeding 50 mph resulted in the death of a building maintenance worker after he was struck by a glass tabletop that was blown off the 9th floor balcony of a Miami Beach apartment complex. On the 5th day of the month, a strong cold frontal passage produced non-convective wind gusts reaching 55 mph across eastern portions of the Carolinas. There were no reported tornadoes across the region during March, which, according to the official tornado database maintained by the Storm Prediction Center, was the first March since records began in 1950 that at least one tornado of any magnitude was not reported in the region.
  • Only modest changes were observed in drought conditions across the region during March. The percentage of the region under drought-free conditions (less than D1) remained approximately 96 percent during the month. The coverage of moderate (D1) drought conditions declined slightly across the Mobile Bay area but spread eastward into south-central Alabama and the Florida Panhandle by the end of the month. In addition, drought continued to intensify over southern Florida, as a localized area of severe (D2) drought conditions was declared in Miami-Dade County on the 24th. Persistent dryness across western North Carolina contributed to the development of a large wildfire near Black Mountain on the 31st, which destroyed one mobile home and injured a firefighter. The most significant agricultural impacts of the dryness and warmth occurred in Florida. Winter forage was reduced substantially by the lack of precipitation, and frequent irrigation was required to maintain proper growth in the citrus crop. Dry conditions, however, contributed to large spring potato yields across the state. A cold snap in late March produced frost damage in peach orchards across portions of central Georgia, where as much as one third of the crop in Peach and Taylor Counties could be lost.
  • 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 )
  • March 2015 brought a continuation of warmth to the western United States and cold for parts of the east. Unlike February, when the High Plains region had a dichotomy of temperatures, this month's temperatures were above normal for the entire region. Temperatures of at least 4.0 degrees F (2.2 degrees C) above normal were widespread, with western parts of the Dakotas, north-central Nebraska, and southern Wyoming having departures greater than 6.0 degrees F (3.3 degrees C) above normal. Where departures were the largest, many locations made the list for top 10 warmest March on record. The warm weather this month was accompanied by extremely dry conditions as little to no precipitation fell across the region. While low precipitation totals are not as worrisome during the winter months, March marks the beginning of spring, when precipitation totals start to increase. The majority of the region had precipitation totals which were less than 50 percent of normal. Much of Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota picked up a paltry 5-25 percent of normal precipitation, while both central Nebraska and central Kansas received less than 5 percent of normal precipitation. This generally meant deficits of 1.00-2.00 inches (25-51 mm), with some higher deficits in southeastern Kansas. The lack of precipitation caused an expansion of drought conditions and many locations had their top 10 driest March on record. A few isolated locations even had their driest. The spring season is critical for precipitation and any continued dryness should be monitored as the season progresses. The combination of warm and dry conditions had both positive and negative impacts for the region. For instance, grass fires were an issue in many areas as dry vegetation provided quick burning fuel. Some fires threatened homes and caused road closures. On the other end of the spectrum, the warm and dry conditions were good for the calving season and also allowed producers to easily get equipment into fields. Although beneficial in the short-term, a continuation of dry conditions would not be favorable as spring rains will be needed to replenish soil moisture.
  • Just three years ago, the U.S. experienced its warmest March on record, with Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota each having their warmest March on record as well. Although not as warm as 2012, this March certainly had its share of extreme temperatures. Many locations ranked in the top 10 warmest Marches on record, while many new records were set for highest March temperature and earliest 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) day. Locations ranking in the top 10 warmest Marches on record included Scottsbluff, Nebraska (3rd), Rapid City, South Dakota (4th), Cheyenne, Wyoming (5th), Casper, Wyoming (6th), Pierre, South Dakota (6th), Lander, Wyoming (8th), and Bismarck, North Dakota (10th). The 10-day stretch from March 7-16 was particularly warm throughout the region. Before a cold front moved through, average temperatures ranged from 20.0-30.0 degrees F (11.1-16.7 degrees C) above normal on March 15th and 16th. Numerous daily records were shattered and some locations even set new records for highest March temperature. For instance, North Platte, Nebraska had its highest March temperature with 91 degrees F (32.8 degrees C) on the 16th. The old record of 88 degrees F (31.1 degrees C) occurred March 31, 1946 (period of record 1874-2015). This was also the earliest 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) day on record for North Platte. On average, this usually happens around May 24th and the previous record was April 8, 1887. Other locations around Nebraska also had their earliest 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C) day on record, while some locations in Colorado had their earliest 80 degrees F (26.7 degrees C) day on record.
  • March was an extremely dry month for the High Plains region. Monthly precipitation totals of less than 1.00 inch (25 mm) were common and large areas of Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota received less than 25 percent of normal precipitation. The ongoing dryness has led to the expansion of drought conditions in eastern Kansas, central Nebraska, and the Dakotas, with drought intensification in western Colorado. Only a few isolated locations in southwestern Wyoming received above normal precipitation this month. Due to the widespread lack of precipitation, numerous locations had their top 10 driest March on record. A sampling included North Platte, Nebraska (driest), Rapid City, South Dakota (2nd), Valentine, Nebraska (2nd), Cheyenne, Wyoming (4th), Goodland, Kansas (5th), and Huron, South Dakota (8th). Rapid City's March total was a mere 0.10 inches (3 mm) and came in second only to 2012's 0.05 inches (1 mm). Interestingly, three of the top five driest Marches to occur in Rapid City have all been since 2010 (period of record 1942-2015). It was a low snowfall month for the region as well - not just in the Rocky Mountains, but also in the plains. A few locations ranking in the top 10 least snowiest Marches on record included Rapid City, South Dakota (5th), Cheyenne, Wyoming (6th), Bismarck, North Dakota (7th), and Fargo, North Dakota (9th). Fargo only picked up 0.4 inches (1 cm) of snow this month, which brought its seasonal total up to 16.0 inches (41 cm). If no more snow falls this season, this will be Fargo's 8th least snowiest season on record (period of record 1885-2015). An example from the Rockies included Winter Park, Colorado which had its second least snowiest March on record with 9.0 inches (23 cm). This total came in just behind the record of 5.0 inches (13 cm), which fell in 2012 (period of record 1942-2015). For comparison, Winter Park's normal March snowfall is 33.5 inches (85 cm).
  • The extreme dryness this month was reflected in the U.S. Drought Monitor as drought conditions expanded across the High Plains region. The total area in drought (D1-D4) increased from about 20 percent to just over 35 percent. To the south, moderate drought conditions (D1) expanded in central and eastern Kansas and into south-central Nebraska. Meanwhile, to the north, D1 expanded in eastern North Dakota and westward across South Dakota. Additionally, continued warmth along with dry conditions have led to the development of severe drought conditions (D2) in western Colorado. D2 now covers about 40 percent of the state. Of all six states in the region, Kansas still had the largest area in drought with approximately 69 percent of the state experiencing drought (D1-D4) at the end of the month. Abnormally dry conditions have expanded through every state in the region and only 27 percent of the region was free of drought or abnormal dryness. The first few days of April brought some precipitation to the region; however the heaviest amounts were confined to eastern Nebraska where drought is not a concern at this time. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's CropWatch, last fall's weather may have contributed to the worst winter wheat winterkill in the past 50 years in southwestern Nebraska. Winterkill can be the result of many reasons, with extreme temperatures and a lack of rainfall and snow cover as contributing factors. Dryness is still a concern due to a lack of precipitation and low soil moisture profiles in the area.
  • For more information, please go to the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Southern Region: (Information provided by the Southern Regional Climate Center)
  • The extreme dryness this month was reflected in the U.S. Drought Monitor as drought conditions expanded across the High Plains region. The total area in drought (D1-D4) increased from about 20 percent to just over 35 percent. To the south, moderate drought conditions (D1) expanded in central and eastern Kansas and into south-central Nebraska. Meanwhile, to the north, D1 expanded in eastern North Dakota and westward across South Dakota. Additionally, continued warmth along with dry conditions have led to the development of severe drought conditions (D2) in western Colorado. D2 now covers about 40 percent of the state. Of all six states in the region, Kansas still had the largest area in drought with approximately 69 percent of the state experiencing drought (D1-D4) at the end of the month. Abnormally dry conditions have expanded through every state in the region and only 27 percent of the region was free of drought or abnormal dryness. The first few days of April brought some precipitation to the region; however the heaviest amounts were confined to eastern Nebraska where drought is not a concern at this time. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's CropWatch, last fall's weather may have contributed to the worst winter wheat winterkill in the past 50 years in southwestern Nebraska. Winterkill can be the result of many reasons, with extreme temperatures and a lack of rainfall and snow cover as contributing factors. Dryness is still a concern due to a lack of precipitation and low soil moisture profiles in the area.
  • March precipitation in the Southern Region varied from extremely dry in some areas to extremely wet in other areas. The highest departures from normal occurred in the Trans Pecos, South Texas and Lower Valley climate divisions of Texas, and in southern Arkansas. A bulk of the stations in these locations averaged over two to three times the monthly normal, and in the case of the Trans Pecos Climate Division, some stations reported over four times of normal. In contrast, many stations in the northern Texas panhandle reported only 25 percent of normal precipitation for the month. This was also the case over north central Oklahoma. The state-wide average precipitation totals for the month are as follows with: Arkansas reporting 7.64 inches (194.06 mm), Louisiana reporting 5.85 inches (148.59 mm), Mississippi reporting 6.06 inches (153.92 mm), Oklahoma reporting 2.22 inches (56.39 mm), Tennessee reporting 5.00 inches (127.00 mm), and Texas reporting 3.35 inches (85.09 mm). For the state of Texas, it was the fourth wettest March on record (1895-2015), while Arkansas recorded its twelfth wettest March on record (1895-2015). All other state-wide precipitation rankings fell within the two middle quartiles.
  • Drought conditions in the Southern Region improved significantly over the past month. Above normal precipitation over Arkansas and western Tennessee has led to the removal of all moderate drought and abnormally dry conditions and the two states are now drought-free. Similarly, much of the moderate drought that was located in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi has been reduced to just a small number of counties/parishes along the northern gulf coast. In southeastern Texas, heavy rainfalls throughout the month has led to the removal of some moderate and severe drought. Conversely, dry conditions in northern Texas and Oklahoma has led to some expansion of extreme drought.
  • The final week of March brought its fair share of severe weather to Oklahoma and Arkansas. Strong storms and over a dozen tornado reports left tens of thousands of people without power on March 25-26. Over 15 injuries have been reported and 4 fatalities, including one twister related death in Tulsa County, Oklahoma.
  • On March 31, baseball-sized hail was reported in Bolivar County, Mississippi, and four tornadoes were reported in eastcentral Arkansas. Damage from the storms appears to be mostly limited to power lines, and trees.
  • In Texas, the rain has helped make an early, beautiful bloom of Texas wildflowers. The soggy grounds are causing issues for some farmers because the soil is too wet to plant crops. A few months ago, soil moisture was too low and now it's too high in some areas. In the Lower Rio Grande Valley, cotton and sugarcane struggled due to the cold and wet winter delaying planting of new crops and oversaturating existing crops. The warm and humid air is helping wheat and oats to grow though: winter wheat statewide is rated at least fair in 89 percent of planting regions, but that 11% poor to very poor is particularly relevant in the eastern Panhandle, which has been exceptionally dry in the previous several months. Ecologically, cattle are in great condition due to consistent rainfall. Farmers are able to grass-feed them in state now rather than take the cattle to where the conditions are more favorable (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
  • At the start of the month, the western Texas Panhandle received nearly 5 inches (127 mm) of snow. With Spring beginning as well, it wasn't surprising that there was a lot of flooding rain events in the Central and Southern portions of the state. Some places recorded nearly 4 inches (101.6 mm) of rain in one day. Warmer weather also made its way throughout the state. Many areas are seeing above average temperatures and even record-tying warm temperatures. El Paso tied a record for the warmest high temperature of 88 degrees F (31.11 degrees C) on March 29. Earlier in the month, however, temperatures dipped down well below normal, with Waco in particular setting a new record low of 20 degrees F (-6.67 degrees C) on March 6 (Information provided by the Texas Office of State Climatology).
  • For more information, please go to the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.
  • Western Region: (Information provided by the Western Region Climate Center)
  • March was the 4th consecutive month of widespread above normal temperatures in the West. Precipitation was below normal for a majority of the West, though scattered areas of the Desert Southwest and along the northern tier of the region received above normal precipitation.
  • Anomalously strong and persistent high pressure anchored over the West this month resulted in record and near-record March temperatures throughout the region. Greatest departures from normal were observed in California, the Great Basin, southern Idaho, and Montana. In California, Los Angeles reported an average 68.2 F (20.1 C), 7.6 F (4.2 C) above normal and warmest March since records began in 1877. Los Angeles observed 6 days at or above 90 F (32.2 C), shattering the previous record of 3 March days above this threshold set 1934, 1988, and 1997. Further north, Sacramento reported its warmest March in a 139-year record at 63 F (17.2 C). Across the border to the east, Reno, Nevada set its March average temperature record at 52.1 F (11.2 C), 6.4 F (3.6 C) above normal. Records at Reno airport began in 1937. To the north, Portland, Oregon saw its warmest March since records began in 1938 at 52.4 F (11.3 C), or 4.2 F (2.3 C) above normal. In central Washington, temperatures at Moses Lake averaged to 48.1 F (8.9 C), the warmest in a 67-year record. Moving southeast, the March average at Pocatello, Idaho was 44.1 F (6.7 C), 6.1 F (3.3 C) above normal and the second warmest since records began in 1939. Salt Lake City, Utah saw its warmest March on record at 49.7 F (9.8 C). Records at Salt Lake City began in 1928. In Montana, Helena set the record for warmest March average temperature at 44.7 F (7.1 C), 8.4 F (4.7 C) above normal. To the southeast, Billings, Montana reported its earliest 80 F (26.7 C) day on record on March 28. The previous earliest 80 F reading was on March 31, 2012. This was also the second warmest March on record in Billings since observations began in 1934. In the Southwest, average March temperature in Flagstaff, Arizona was 42 F (5.6 C), the 3rd highest in a 123-year record.
  • A few locations in the Southwest recorded above normal precipitation due to a closed low-pressure system that moving across the region during the first week of the month. In southeastern California, Blythe received 1.02 in (26 mm) 204% of normal and the 8th wettest March in a 68-year record. Flagstaff, Arizona reported 3.73 in (95 mm) precipitation, 176% of normal. This was the 15th wettest March since records began in 1893. Both of these locations received nearly all their precipitation over the first two days of the month. Scattered areas along the northern tier of the west also saw above normal precipitation due to a series of storms in the latter half of the month. In the Idaho Panhandle, Bonners Ferry saw its 6th wettest March on record, observing 3.89 in (99 mm) precipitation this month, 234% of normal. Records at Bonners Ferry began in 1907. Further South, Spokane, Washington logged 2.43 in (62 mm) of precipitation, 151% of normal and the 15th wettest March in a 135-year record.
  • Drier than normal conditions prevailed elsewhere in the West, especially in California and the Great Basin. San Francisco observed 0.12 in (3 mm) for the month, 4% of normal and tied with 1956 for 4th driest March in a 167-year record. On the other side of the Sierra Nevada, Reno recorded only 0.01 in (0.4 mm) of precipitation, to tie 1997 for the 2nd driest March on record. The anemic snowpack in the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Great Basin continued to dwindle this month. A majority of basins reported less than 20% of normal snow water equivalent at month's end. Snowpack in the Rockies had been near to slightly above normal throughout the winter, but above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation this month reduced snow water equivalents to 50-80% of normal in most basins. Drought conditions worsened in large areas of eastern and western Nevada, northern Utah, western Colorado, and along the Wyoming-Idaho border. Drought conditions improved in central and northern New Mexico.
  • Average temperatures were near to above normal throughout Alaska this month. Some locations in the Southwest, Interior, and Southcentral regions were significantly above normal despite a cold snap that affected the Interior between the 9th-16th. McGrath reported an average 17.6 F (-8 C), 6 F (3.3 C) above normal and the 9th warmest March since records began in 1941. Precipitation was highly variable across the state, though the North Slope saw above average precipitation. Barrow reported 0.28 in (7 mm), 311% of normal. Drier than normal conditions continued for much of Hawaii this month, most notably on the Big Island, Oahu, and Kauai. Honolulu received 0.62, in (16 mm), 31% of normal. In contrast, Kahului, Maui received 9.79 in (249 mm) of rainfall, 400% of normal and the 2nd wettest March since records began in 1905. Drought conditions eased this month in parts of the Big Island, Maui, and Moloka'i.
  • March (all month): Record low snowpack in Sierra Nevada: Snow water equivalent on April 1 was only 5% of normal for the date. This was the lowest measurement since official records began in 1950. The previous lowest April 1 snow packs of 25% of normal were observed in 1977 and 2014. This prompts major concerns over water resources for the coming months.
  • March 15: Strong winds in Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area: High winds and rain moved through the area on the 15th causing moderate damage. Gusts downed many trees and power lines and left 45,000 people without power in the afternoon. Fallen trees blocked roadways and caused damage to cars and buildings. In Portland, scaffolding fell off a building the downtown area.
  • For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Climatic Data Center, State of the Climate: National Overview for March 2015, published online April 2015, retrieved on April 25, 2015 from http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/national/.