National Overview

March Extreme Weather/Climate Events

March Highlights

March Temperature

The contiguous U.S. average temperature during March was 40.7°F, 0.8°F below average, ranking in the middle third of the record.

Generally, temperatures were above average from the southern Plains to New England and in parts of the Great Lakes, with below-average temperatures from the northern Plains to the West Coast.

For the month of March, Florida had its eighth-warmest March in the 129-year record. Conversely, Oregon ranked third coldest while California, Nevada, and North Dakota each ranked fifth coldest and Utah had its seventh coldest March on record.

The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during March was 51.6°F, 1.4°F below the 20th century average, ranking in the coldest third of the record. Above-average maximum temperatures were observed from the southern Plains to Northeast, with below-average temperatures from the northern Plains to the West Coast. Florida ranked sixth warmest on record for daytime temperatures. California and Nevada each ranked third coldest while North Dakota ranked fifth, Oregon ranked seventh and Utah ranked eighth coldest March on record for daytime temperatures.

The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during March was 29.7°F, 0.3°F below the 20th century average, ranking in the middle third of the historical record. Minimum temperatures were above average from the southern Plains to the East Coast and in parts of the Great Lakes. Temperatures were near- or below-normal from the central and northern Plains to the West Coast. Florida had its 10th-warmest March in the 129-year record. Conversely, Oregon ranked second coldest while North Dakota and Nevada ranked seventh and eighth coldest March on record for nighttime temperatures, respectively.

The Alaska statewide March temperature was 13.3°F, 2.5°F above the long-term average. This March was in the warmest third of the 99-year period of record for the state. Temperatures were above average across the North Slope, in large portions of western Alaska and in parts of the Aluetians. Much of the interior and southern parts of the state were near normal while the Panhandle experienced below-average temperatures for the month.

Based on NOAA's Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index (REDTI), the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during March was 94 percent of average and the 57th-lowest value in the 129-year period of record.

March Precipitation

The March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.81 inches, 0.30 inch above average, ranking in the wettest third of the 129-year record.

Precipitation was above average across much of the West, from eastern Oklahoma to the Great Lakes and in parts of the northern Plains and Northeast. Precipitation was below average from eastern New Mexico to the central Plains, in the Mid-Atlantic, and in parts of the Northwest, Gulf Coast and Northeast.

Utah ranked third wettest, while Nevada and California had their sixth- and seventh-wettest March on record, respectively. On the dry side, Virginia ranked eighth driest while Maryland and Delaware both experienced their 11th-driest March in the 129-year record.

Monthly precipitation averaged across the state of Alaska was 2.38 inches, ranking near-normal in the 99-year record. Conditions were wetter than average across much of the northern half of the state and in parts of the Aleutians and Panhandle. The southeast Interior and parts of the Southwest and Panhandle were near average while south central Alaska and much of the Panhandle experienced below average precipitation for the month.

According to the April 4 U.S. Drought Monitor, about 28.2% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down about 10.3% from the end of February. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across much of the Mid-Atlantic, Florida Peninsula and Puerto Rico, portions of the southern Plains, and in parts of the Pacific Northwest, central Plains and Hawaii. Drought contracted or was eliminated across large parts of the West, in portions of the northern Plains, and in parts of Michigan and the Southeast.

Other Notable Events

Since October 1, 2022, when the water year begins for most of the West Coast, there have been several atmospheric river events that brought heavy rain and snowfall to much of the western U.S. According to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a total of 31 atmospheric river events — 11 weak, 13 moderate, 6 strong and 1 extreme — brought precipitation to the state of California.

  • Over the past six-months, October to March, 10 western U.S. counties ranked wettest on record with 60 additional counties experiencing a top-10 wettest event for this period.
  • According to the California Department of Water Resources, the statewide snowpack is among the deepest ever recorded for the end of March — 237% of normal.
  • Mammoth Mountain, California, recorded their snowiest season on record with more than 870 inches on the summit.
  • The Central Sierra Snow Lab surpassed 700 inches of snow for the season — the second-highest total on record since 1951.
  • Record snowfall amounts were set at several ski resorts in Utah—Brighton, Solitude and Alta have all reported more than 700 inches of snow this season.
  • As of March 24, Utah had their snowiest winter season since 1980 — the start of the state's SNOTEL network — breaking the previous record set in 1983.
  • Flagstaff, Arizona, received nearly 160 inches of snow this year — the snowiest winter in more than 40 years.
  • According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, drought conditions in the West improved from 73.5% coverage on November 1, 2022, to 30.9% on April 4, 2023.

Several notable weather systems produced severe thunderstorms and a number of tornadoes that impacted portions of the U.S. in March.

  • On March 1-3, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the Ohio River Valley, southern Plains and Southeast. A total of 36 tornadoes, including two EF-2 tornadoes, was confirmed by the National Weather Service.
  • On March 16, a rare tornado touched down in Las Pierdas, Puerto Rico, causing damage to a strip mall.
  • On March 22, an EF-1 tornado touched down in the Los Angeles area becoming the strongest tornado to hit the area since 1983.
  • On March 24-26, a tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the Southeast and caused catastrophic damage in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. A total of 41 tornadoes, including an EF-4 and three EF-3s, was confirmed by the National Weather Service.
  • On March 31, nearly 28 million people were under tornado watches as a widespread and deadly tornado outbreak occurred across portions of the Midwest and southern U.S. More than 110 tornadoes, including an EF-4 and eight EF-3s, were confirmed by the National Weather Service—the largest outbreak in a 24-hour period for the month of March. Damage surveys pinpointed that significant damage occurred in parts of western Little Rock, Arkansas.

On March 13-15, the largest winter storm of the season to hit the Northeast brought heavy snowfall over large parts of the Northeast with accumulations up to 40 inches in the higher elevations.


Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters

During the first quarter of 2023, no new billion-dollar weather and climate disasters have been confirmed, although several events are currently being evaluated.

In early April 2022, NCEI added an additional seven historical weather and climate events which, through inflation and review, surpassed the billion-dollar threshold.

The U.S. has now sustained 348 weather and climate disasters since 1980 where overall damages/costs reached or exceeded $1 billion (based on Consumer Price Index adjustment to 2023). The total cost of these 348 events exceeds $2.510 trillion.


Year-to-Date Highlights

January-March Temperature

For the January-March period, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 37.4°F, 2.3°F above average, ranking 20th warmest in the 129-year record. Temperatures were above average across much of the eastern U.S. with near- to below-average temperatures from the northern Plains to the West Coast. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida each had their warmest January-March period on record. New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Ohio and Alabama each had their second warmest, while 16 additional states ranked among their warmest 10 year-to-date periods on record.

The contiguous U.S. average maximum (daytime) temperature during January-March was 47.9°F, 1.8°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the warmest third of the historical record. Above-average temperatures were observed across much of the eastern contiguous U.S. Near- to below-average temperatures were observed from the northern Plains to the West Coast. Georgia and Florida each ranked warmest on record for daytime temperatures during January-March period. Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Kentucky and North Carolina each had their second warmest, while 20 additional states ranked among their top-10 warmest January-March on record for daytime temperatures. California ranked ninth coldest while Nevada ranked 10th coldest on record for this three-month period.

The contiguous U.S. average minimum (nighttime) temperature during this three-month period was 26.9°F, 2.7°F above the 20th century average, ranking in the warmest third of the historical record. Above-average nighttime temperatures were observed across much of the eastern contiguous U.S., from the southern Plains to the East Coast and in parts of the northern tier. New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida each ranked warmest on record for nighttime temperatures. Maine, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia each ranked second warmest with 18 additional states experiencing a top-10 warmest event for nighttime temperatures during the January-March period. Nighttime temperatures with near- to below-average from the central Rockies to the West Coast.

The Alaska January-March temperature was 10.0°F, 4.1°F above the long-term average, ranking in the warmest third of the record for the state. Above-average temperatures were observed across almost the entire state for this three-month period.

Based on REDTI, the contiguous U.S. temperature-related energy demand during January-March was 35 percent of average and was the sixth-lowest value on record.

January-March Precipitation

The January-March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 7.75 inches, 0.79 inch above average, ranking in the wettest third of the historical record.

Precipitation was above average from California to the Upper Midwest, in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, and in parts of the Southeast and Northeast. Precipitation was below average across portions of the Northwest, northern and southern Plains, Mid-Atlantic and Florida, and in parts of the Northeast during the January-March period.

Utah and Wisconsin each ranked third wettest, Nevada ranked eighth wettest, while California, Michigan and Arkansas each ranked 10th wettest for this three-month period. Maryland and Delaware ranked third and fifth driest on record, respectively.

The January-March precipitation ranked in the wettest third of the 99-year record for Alaska, with above-average precipitation observed across much of the eastern Interior and in parts of the Panhandle while the North Slope and West Coast were much wetter than average. The central Interior and parts of the Southwest and Southeast were near average while south central Alaska and parts of the Aleutians experienced below-average precipitation during this period.

Extremes

The U.S. Climate Extremes Index (USCEI) for the year-to-date period was 48 percent above average and ranked 12th highest in the 114-year period of record. Extremes in warm maximum temperatures and warm minimum temperatures were the major contributors to this elevated CEI value. The USCEI is an index that tracks extremes (occurring 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 Southeast, South and West ranked above average while the Northeast and Ohio Valley ranked fourth highest for this year-to-date period. The Northeast, Ohio Valley, Upper Midwest, South and Southeast experienced elevated extremes in warm maximum temperatures and warm minimum temperatures. The Northeast, Upper Midwest and Ohio Valley also experienced elevated extremes in one-day precipitation while the West experienced elevated extremes in cool maximum temperatures and wet PDSI values. Conversely, extremes across the Northwest were 94 percent below average and the Northern Rockies and Plains region was 54 percent below average ranking as their 3rd and 18th lowest year-to-date period on record, respectively.

Monthly Outlook

According to the March 31 One-Month Outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, areas from the southern Plains to the Northeast and northwestern Alaska favor above-normal monthly mean temperatures in April, with the greatest odds likely to occur along the Gulf Coast states to North Carolina. The best chances for below-normal temperatures are forecast from the West Coast to the Upper Midwest and in parts of southern Alaska. The Northwest and from the southern Plains to Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, as well as parts of northern Alaska, are favored to see above-normal monthly total precipitation. Below-normal precipitation is most likely to occur in the Southwest U.S. and in parts of southwest Alaska. Drought improvement or removal is forecast in portions of the West, Plains and Michigan, while persistence is more likely in portions of the Great Basin, Southwest, Great Plains, Florida and in parts of the Rockies, the Gulf Coast and the Mid-Atlantic. Drought development is likely across parts of the Mid-Atlantic region.

According to the One-Month Outlook issued on April 1 from the National Interagency Fire Center, portions of the Southwest, Mid-Atlantic, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Alaska have above-normal significant wildland fire potential during April, while portions of the northern Plains and other parts of the Southwest are expected to have below-normal potential for the month.


Regional Highlights

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

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

March temperatures were near to above normal and precipitation was below to near normal, along with two notable snowstorms and the introduction of moderate drought.

Temperature

The Northeast wrapped up March with an average temperature of 36.0 degrees F, 1.6 degrees F warmer than normal. Average temperatures for March for the 12 Northeast states ranged from 0.8 degrees F above normal in West Virginia to 3.4 degrees F above normal in Maine, its 17th warmest March since 1895.

Precipitation

March was drier than normal in the Northeast, with the region seeing 2.94 inches of precipitation, 83 percent of normal. March precipitation for the 12 Northeast states ranged from 45 percent of normal in Delaware to 108 percent of normal in Vermont, with eight states being drier than normal, two at normal, and two being wetter than normal. Delaware and Maryland each had their 11th driest March since recordkeeping began in 1895.

Drought

The U.S. Drought Monitor from March 7 showed 2 percent of the Northeast as abnormally dry. These areas included small parts southern Maryland, southern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and New York's Long Island. By month's end, increasing precipitation deficits, below-normal streamflow, and declining soil moisture led to the introduction of moderate drought in southern/eastern Maryland and the introduction/expansion of abnormal dryness in Maryland, Delaware, southern New Jersey, and southeastern Pennsylvania. The U.S. Drought Monitor from March 28 showed 1 percent of the Northeast in moderate drought and 6 percent as abnormally dry.

Notable Weather

A storm from March 3 to 4 brought localized heavy snowfall and gusty winds to the Northeast. The greatest storm snow totals of 12 to 18 inches were generally in higher elevations of eastern/northern New York and northern New England. Wind gusts reached 60 mph in multiple locations across the region, with a few higher gusts of up to 74 mph. The strong winds downed trees and power lines, blocking roads and knocking out power, in portions of West Virginia, western Maryland, and western Pennsylvania. A nor'easter dropped significant snowfall on parts of eastern/northern New York and New England from March 13 to 15. Multiple counties in these areas picked up at least 12 inches of snow, with the greatest storm snow totals reaching 36 inches in eastern New York and western Massachusetts and 42 inches in southern Vermont. The weight of the snow downed trees and power lines in parts of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, leaving some roads impassable. Between heavy snow and gusty winds, hundreds of thousands of customers in the Northeast lost power, with some outages lasting days. Whiteout conditions made travel difficult, resulting in hundreds of accidents. Some Northeast airports such as Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts, and LaGuardia Airport in New York City had hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights. At Hancock International Airport in Syracuse, New York, a plane slid off a taxiway.

For more information, please visit the Northeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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

Temperature

The average March temperature for the Midwest was 34.4 degrees F (1.3 degrees C), which was 2.5 degrees F (1.4 degrees C) below the 1991-2020 normal. Average temperatures were slightly above normal in the far eastern region and below normal in the far western region, with near normal conditions in between. Monthly minimum and maximum temperatures followed a similar pattern. Preliminary statewide average temperatures ranged from near normal in Ohio and Kentucky to 7.7 degrees F (4.3 degrees C) below normal in Minnesota. The month began with temperatures 5-13 degrees F (3-7 degrees C) above normal across the southeastern half of the region, resulting in over 120 daily high temperature records broken or tied from March 1-7. On March 1, Evansville, Indiana measured the earliest 80 degree F (26.7 degree C) day on record, dating back to 1897. After a warm start, a prolonged period of below-normal temperatures settled across the region, slowing plant growth and development that had initiated in late winter and early spring across the lower Midwest.

Precipitation

March precipitation totaled 3.45 inches (88 mm) for the Midwest, which was 0.88 inches (22 mm) above normal, or 134 percent of normal. Across the region, monthly precipitation totals ranged from 1-4 inches (25-102 mm) across the upper Midwest and 4-12 inches (101-305 mm) along an axis from southern Missouri to Ohio. Preliminary statewide precipitation totals ranged from 0.58 inches (15 mm) below normal in Iowa to 2.5 inches (64 mm) above normal in Indiana. Preliminary rankings indicate the 11th wettest on record for Indiana and the 15th wettest for Missouri. In Michigan, Kalamazoo (wettest, 93 years of data), Grand Rapids (2nd wettest, 130 years of data), and Lansing (5th wettest, 157 years of data) all had a record or near-record wet month. Paducah, Kentucky had the 3rd wettest March dating back 82 years. A generally active weather pattern brough numerous rounds of heavy precipitation to the Midwest, resulting in over 550 daily high precipitation records.

Drought

By month's end, the US Drought Monitor indicated that 84 percent of the region had no dryness or drought. Drought that had been affecting southeast Michigan was nearly gone, and conditions in western Minnesota showed improvement. Iowa continued to be the primary drought-affected area, with about one-third in drought and one-third abnormally dry. Only a very isolated area of southwest Missouri had drought conditions worsen during March.

Snow

March snowfall was above normal across the upper Midwest, except for south-central Minnesota which was slightly below normal. Snowfall totals from northern Minnesota to northern Michigan ranged from about 10-50 inches (25-127 cm), with the highest totals on the southwest shore of Lake Superior. The Rhinelander area in northern Wisconsin measured the snowiest March dating back 99 years. Appleton, Wisconsin had the snowiest March on record (106 years of data) with 29 inches (73.7 cm). In Minnesota, Duluth had the 3rd snowiest March and St. Cloud had the 4th snowiest. Snowfall was limited across the lower Midwest, which is typical for March.

Notable Weather

Flooding, and Snowfall on March 3: A strong low-pressure system traversed the United States, bringing severe storms to the lower Midwest and winter weather to the north on March 3. The storm system intensified as it approached the Midwest, which resulted in all-time low atmospheric pressure readings in Louisville, Kentucky and in Evansville and Terre Haute, Indiana. Extremely high winds (40-70 mph) blanketed much of the Midwest, with peak gusts topping out at 79 mph in Louisville. Power outages were widespread across Kentucky, and affected portions of Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan. At least 15 tornadoes were confirmed across the Ohio River Valley. A large swath of 2-5 inches of rain fell along an axis from southeast Missouri to western Ohio. On the north side of the system, 5-10 inches of snow fell across southern Michigan. March 31 Tornado Outbreak: A strong cold front moved across the Midwest on March 31 igniting a severe weather outbreak from Iowa and Missouri eastward through Ohio. As of this writing, at least 93 tornadoes had been confirmed in the Midwest region by the National Weather Service along with 10 fatalities (Indiana-5, Illinois-4, Ohio-1). The strongest tornado from this event occurred in southeast Iowa and was rated an EF4 with maximum wind speeds of 170 mph (274 kph). This outbreak produced Indiana's first tornado-related fatality since March 2, 2012. Hundreds of preliminary hail and high wind reports accompanied this outbreak, resulting in significant and widespread damage to buildings, trees, roadways, and powerlines. One the northern side of this storm system were cooler temperatures and gusty winds that prompted blizzard warnings across southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. High winds coupled with heavy, wet snow caused downed trees and power lines, and left thousands across Minnesota without power. Portions of northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula received upwards of 20 inches (50.8 cm) of snow.

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)

Temperature

For the third straight month, mean temperatures were above average across the Southeast. Most locations, particularly in the interior of the region, were 1 to 3 degrees F (0.5 to 1.6 degrees C) above average for the month. The greatest departures were found across the southern tier of the region, particularly southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and the state of Florida, where many locations were 3 to 5 degrees F (1.6 to 2.8 degrees C) above average for the month. Melbourne, FL recorded its second warmest March on record (since 1937), Key West, FL, and Miami, FL recorded their third warmest March on record (since 1871 and 1895, respectively), and Fort Myers, FL recorded its fourth warmest March on record (since 1902). For the fourth consecutive month, mean temperatures were near average across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. March began with a continuation of unseasonably warm weather that started back in late January. Many locations recorded daily mean temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees F (5.6 and 11.1 degrees C) above average from the 1st to the 8th of the month. Miami, FL recorded three consecutive days with maximum temperatures of at least 90 degrees F (32.2 degrees C), the longest such streak on record (since 1895) through the first three months of the year. Cooler weather prevailed across most of the region during the middle of the month, with mean temperatures running between 5 and 15 degrees F (2.8 and 8.3 degrees C) below average from the 11th to the 16th, while temperatures remained above average across Florida. West Palm Beach, FL reached 94 degrees F (34.4 degrees C) on the 13th, which was 1 degree F (0.5 degrees C) shy of its highest maximum temperature for any March day on record (since 1888). More seasonable temperatures briefly returned on the 17th ahead of a strong cold front. The coldest weather of the month occurred in the wake of the front from the 18th to the 22nd, with mean temperatures running 10 to 20 degrees F (5.6 to 11.1 degrees C) below average across much of the region, including parts of Florida, where subfreezing temperatures were recorded as far south as the Panhandle. Warm weather returned to the region by the 23rd, with mean temperatures again running between 10 and 20 degrees F (5.6 and 11.1 degrees C) above average in many places. Mobile, AL recorded its highest minimum temperature for any March day on record (since 1872) with a value of 73 degrees F (22.8 degrees C) on the 25th and 26th. The month ended with slightly cooler than average temperatures across much of the region, except in Florida, where mean temperatures remained several degrees above average.

Precipitation

Precipitation was below average across most of the region in March. Monthly totals were less than 50 percent of normal across much of Virginia, coastal South Carolina, and pockets of southern Alabama and Georgia. The driest locations were found across the Florida Peninsula (except around Miami) and parts of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, where monthly precipitation totals were less than 25 percent of normal. Sarasota, FL recorded its third driest March on record (since 1911) with just 0.18 inches (4.6 mm) of precipitation, while West Palm Beach, FL (1888-2023) and Henry Rohlsen Airport (1943-2023) on the island of Saint Croix tied their third driest March on record with just 0.12 inches (3.0 mm) and 0.29 inches (7.4 mm) of precipitation, respectively. Several other locations in South Florida recorded less than half an inch (12.7 mm) of precipitation for the month, including Orlando, Tampa, Fort Myers, Naples, and Key West. The persistence of dry weather in Florida has been noteworthy in places. Through the first three months of the year, West Palm Beach, FL has recorded just 1.47 inches (37.3 mm) of precipitation, the lowest amount on record (since 1888). Key West, FL (1871-2023) recorded its second driest start to the year with just 0.34 inches (8.6 mm) over the past three months, while Orlando, FL (1892-2023) recorded its third driest start to the year with 1.89 inches (48.0 mm) of precipitation. In contrast, a swath of above average precipitation was found extending from east-central Alabama to southeastern North Carolina, where monthly totals were generally between 2 and 6 inches (50.8 and 152 mm) above average (125 to 300 percent of normal), with some amounts in Alabama and Georgia over 8 inches (203 mm) above average (over 200 percent of normal). Most of this precipitation fell between the 26th and 28th of the month, as a frontal boundary stalled across the region. In addition, pockets of above average precipitation were found across the Florida Panhandle, northern Alabama, and extreme southern portions of Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. On the 30th of the month, Miami, FL recorded 3.49 inches (88.6 mm) of precipitation, which is the fifth highest total for any March day on record (since 1895). Monthly precipitation was variable across Puerto Rico, with above average totals across the eastern interior and below average totals across the remainder of the island. The cooler weather during the middle of the month contributed to light snow and ice pellets across the higher elevations and northern tier of the region between the 11th and 15th. Roanoke, VA recorded 0.4 inches (10.2 mm) of snow on the 12th, which is the latest date of first measurable snowfall on record (since 1912). Trace amounts of snow were also recorded across the higher elevations of the Carolinas and Virginia between the 18th and 20th of the month. Mount Mitchell, NC, recorded just a trace of snowfall for the month, which tied for the lowest snowfall total for any March on record (since 1925).

Drought

The continuation of warm and dry weather led to a worsening of drought conditions across much of the Florida Peninsula, except in the extreme southeastern corner around Miami. Severe (D2) drought emerged across the southwestern part of the state and covered much of the Peninsula by the end of the month. A small pocket of extreme (D3) drought also emerged in parts of Collier, Hendry, and Lee counties. Abnormally dry (D0) conditions expanded across eastern portions of the Carolinas and much of Virginia, along with some pockets of moderate (D1) drought. Short-term drought conditions also worsened across the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, moderate (D1) drought emerged across the south coastal and northwest regions, while abnormally dry (D0) conditions expanded across the eastern interior, southern slopes, and outlying islands. Abnormally dry (D0) conditions emerged on Saint John, while severe (D2) drought was introduced on Saint Croix. Moderate (D1) drought persisted on Saint Thomas. In contrast, parts of southern Alabama and Georgia, and the eastern Florida Panhandle, saw some improvements in abnormally dry (D0) and moderate (D1) drought conditions due to locally heavier precipitation amounts. Overall, about 30 percent of the region was in abnormally dry (D0) conditions by the end of the month, while moderate (D1) to extreme (D3) drought covered about 16 percent of the region.

Agriculture

Subfreezing temperatures in the middle of the month negatively impacted many crops across the region, particularly those that were planted early. Peach orchards with early-blooming varieties sustained significant damage across northern Georgia and South Carolina, while late-blooming varieties are likely to see a delayed harvest. Commercial blueberries in Georgia and Florida sustained minimal damage due to widespread frost protection. Winter wheat, rye, and oats were in generally good condition, though yields are expected to be lower due to the cold weather. Pastures were also negatively impacted by the cold temperatures, except in places with higher precipitation amounts, including northern Alabama and the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. However, strawberry yields in these areas are expected to be lower due to the presence of fungal diseases. Wet soil conditions in Georgia forced growers to spray for downy mildew, delaying the harvest of early season Vidalia onions. Heavy rainfall, especially towards the end of the month, disrupted the preparation of fields and other planting activities in parts of Alabama and Georgia, while generally warm and dry weather allowed the planting of row crops to progress across the Carolinas and Virginia. Livestock conditions were generally good across the region, though some operators, particularly in southern Alabama and Georgia, were still having to supplement feed due to poor pastures and low hay supplies. Wet soils were also causing foot problems for livestock in parts of Georgia. Across the Florida Peninsula, the warm temperatures and lack of precipitation continued to place stress on crops and vegetation. The biggest impacts were seen in pastures, which were in mostly poor to fair condition.

Notable Weather

There were 400 reports of severe weather across the Southeast in March, which is nearly double the median frequency of 205 reports over the period 2000 to 2021 (195 percent of normal). There were 26 confirmed tornadoes (5 EF-0s, 16 EF-1s, 4 EF-2s, 1 EF-3), which is above the median frequency of 19 (137 percent of normal). Eighteen of these tornadoes occurred during a severe weather outbreak that affected the region from 24th to the 27th of the month. The strongest tornado was an EF-3 that touched down along the Alabama-Georgia border near the towns of Lanett, AL and West Point, GA on the morning of the 26th. The most significant damage occurred along Highway 29 just north of West Point, where several homes were completely destroyed. Estimated peak winds in this area were around 150 mph (67 m/s). The tornado caused significant damage to the Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari located in southeast Troup County, GA, resulting in the escape of two tigers. The tigers were later captured unharmed. The tornado also destroyed or damaged over 40 cabins along Cherokee Resort Road. According to the Troup County Emergency Management Agency, 23 homes were destroyed and 26 sustained major damage. Five injuries were also confirmed from this tornado. An EF-2 tornado caused significant damage in the town of Milstead in Macon County, AL during the early morning hours of the 27th. Estimated peak winds were around 125 mph (56 m/s). Dozens of trees were snapped and uprooted, and numerous concrete power poles were pulled down. The roof and outer walls of a cotton gin collapsed. An agricultural research facility also sustained major damage. Another EF-2 tornado struck the town of Florence in Lauderdale County, AL on the 24th, with estimated peak winds around 120 mph (54 m/s). The most significant damage was found in the Plantation Spring subdivision, where the roofs of several houses were destroyed and a few experienced partial to complete wall collapse. During the overnight hours on the 25th, an EF-2 tornado tracked across the southern end of Morgan County, AL. The tornado uprooted and snapped numerous trees and caused significant damage to a large pole barn near the town of Falkville. Over 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg) of hay bales in the barn were blown downwind. At around the same time, another EF-2 tornado was occurring farther north around the towns of Danville and Hartselle. Estimated peak winds were around 115 mph (51 m/s). The scoreboard at the Danville High School football stadium was destroyed. Several homes experienced heavy structural damage, some from tree falls. A mobile home just north of Hartselle was destroyed when the anchoring system snapped, causing the home to overturn and roll a considerable distance. One person inside was killed. There were 278 wind reports in March, which is well above the median frequency of 115 (242 percent of normal). Muscle Shoals, AL recorded a 73 mph (33 m/s) wind gust on the 3rd of the month, which is the third highest gust ever recorded at that station (since 1948). Thunderstorm winds exceeding 50 mph (22 m/s) were also recorded across parts of Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Straight-line winds between 60 and 80 mph (27 and 36 m/s) were recorded across parts of Leon and Jefferson County, FL on the 10th of the month. One person was killed and one was injured when a tree fell on a vehicle. Felled trees also closed portions of Interstate-10 in Jefferson County. Thunderstorm winds of 50 to 60 mph (22 to 27 m/s) caused widespread tree and structural damage across central portions of Alabama and Georgia on the 12th of the month. Gainesville, FL recorded a 62 mph (28 m/s) wind gust on the 13th, which is the second highest gust on record for the month of March (since 1943). The severe weather outbreak near the end of the month also produced strong and damaging wind gusts, most of which were between 50 and 65 mph (22 and 29 m/s). Of note were straight-line winds between 70 and 80 mph (31 and 36 m/s) that caused significant damage to trees and structures in Florence, AL, which was also affected by an EF-2 tornado. There were 82 hail reports in March, which is above the median frequency of 71 (115 percent of normal). The largest hailstones were baseball-sized, or 2.75 inches (69.9 mm), and caused damage to cars and windows in Tallapoosa, Chambers, and Chilton counties in central Alabama, and in Coweta County in west-central Georgia. There were 10 rip current fatalities in March. Seven of these occurred in Puerto Rico, two occurred in Florida, and one in Alabama.

For more information, please visit the Southeast Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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

While snow continued to impact the northern states in March, precipitation was notably absent for much of the High Plains. Cooler temperatures helped with drought conditions; however, many places desperately need moisture this spring. As the significant drought affecting Kansas enters the second year, a number of impacts are becoming apparent. Winter wheat is in incredibly poor shape, with some places not having meaningful precipitation in nearly 200 days. Fields are already being evaluated by insurance adjusters and being adjusted out, despite no wheat emerging. Farmers will be forced to find ways to hold soil in place in the coming months, as blowing dust has been an issue over the past year. The groundwater has been depleted, with water levels dropping nearly three feet near Garden City. A very unusual impact comes from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Game Wardens within the state are seeing increased numbers of coyotes in towns this year due to the extreme drought conditions. The dry conditions have caused them to become desperate for sources of food and water. After a quiet winter for wildfires, conditions rapidly became conducive for fires late in the month. Two separate fires broke out in Colorado on the 30th, with the town of Simla being evacuated after the flames poised a threat to the public.

Temperature

Temperatures this past month were, for the most part, near to below normal for the region. March was chilly, particularly in parts of the Dakotas, Colorado, and Wyoming. Departures were up to 20 degrees F (11.1 degrees C) below normal in those states, with many locations ranking in the top 10 coldest. Temperatures were slightly below-normal for the rest of the region. North Dakota was brutally cold, with the highest average temperature in the state being 20.6 degrees F (-6.3 degrees C) in the southwestern part of the state. The town of Mayville was the coldest place in the state, with an average temperature of 9.3 degrees F (-12.6 degrees C), which was also the coldest March on record for that station. Nearby Grand Forks observed their 3rd coldest March, with an average temperature of 12.6 degrees F (-10.8 degrees C). Other notable locations such as Bismarck, Dickinson, and Williston also ranked in the top 10. Portions of Wyoming have been exceptionally cold in 2023. Casper and Rawlins recorded their 4th coldest January to March, while Lander was the coldest on record. The average temperature in the past three months was a meager 16.4 degrees F (-8.7 degrees C).

Precipitation

Precipitation was once again spotty this month. Several winter storms impacted the Dakotas, however, much of Kansas and Nebraska were bone dry. Southwestern Kansas has been on the short end of the stick when it comes to precipitation for the past year, and March was no exception. Many places received less than 0.10 inches (2.54 mm) of precipitation, including Hays, Garden City, and Great Bend. Since the start of 2023, numerous locations have received less than 0.50 inches (12.7 mm) of precipitation. After record to near-record dryness last year, the situation continues to become dire and dire each month. The onslaught of snowstorms in the Dakotas carried over into March. Blizzards continued to ravage both states, with record to near-record snowfall this month. Sisseton, South Dakota measured 31.3 inches (79.5 cm) of snow which set the record for March. This large amount of snow also propelled them to observe their snowiest January to March, with 48.5 inches (123.2 cm) of snow. Pierre ranked second after 19.1 inches (48.5 cm) of snow, but well short of the record at 31.8 inches (80.8 cm) set in 1975. Ranking third snowiest includes Aberdeen and Fargo, North Dakota.

Drought

Drought conditions improved this month, primarily in North Dakota. Conditions did degrade in the southern portions of the region after minimal precipitation occurred. Overall, there was a 3 percent decrease in D0 to D4 (abnormally dry to exceptional drought conditions). After a bitterly cold and wet month, North Dakota experienced a 30 percent reduction in D1-D4 (moderate to exceptional). Despite the reduction in drought conditions, there was a minimal reduction in abnormally dry conditions with 95 percent of the state still observing D0-D4. While drought still remains entrenched in Nebraska, D3 to D4 (extreme to exceptional) was reduced by eight percent. Elsewhere in the region, other improvements and degradation were observed.

For more information, please visit the High Plains Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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

Tornadoes led to 119 injuries and 26 fatalities during March in the Southern Region.

Temperature

March 2023 was warmer than normal across the southern portion of the region and near to cooler than normal across the north. Statewide average in Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, and Arkansas ranked 14th, 22nd, 26th, 45th, and 45th warmest (out of 129 years). The Southern Region as a whole ranked 30th warmest. Oklahoma was near its historical median value. Ten stations recorded high temperatures greater than 100 F during March, all in Texas, with the warmest temperature recorded in the region being 105 F at Falcon Lake on March 1st. The coldest temperature recorded was 1 F at Mt Leconte, Tennessee on March 20th. The coldest lowland temperature recorded was 7 F at Libscomb, Texas on March 18th. No monthly daily minimum or maximum temperature records were set in Southern Region during March 2023.

Precipitation

Precipitation was above normal across much of Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, northern Mississippi, far western Tennessee, northeastern Texas, and the Big Bend area of Texas. The remainder of the region was generally recorded below normal precipitation, with stations in the Panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma reporting less than five percent of average precipitation during March. Statewide averages were above normal in Arkansas (ranked 14th wettest) and Oklahoma (40th wettest). While statewide averages were below normal in Louisiana (ranked 25th driest), Mississippi (49th driest), and Texas (49th driest). Tennessee and the Southern Region as a whole were near their historical median values. The five wettest stations were a mix of COOP (2) and CoCoRaHS (3) sites and spread across two states: Batesville 2.2 SSE, Mississippi (18.61 inches), near Melbourne, Arkansas (14.5), at Baldwyn, Mississippi (13.88), Batesville 4.2 ESE, Mississippi (12.87), and near Vanderhoof, Arkansas (12.79 inches). Three stations recorded six inches or greater single date accumulations: near Batesville, Mississippi (6.75 inches, March 2nd), at Baldwyn, Mississippi (6.2, March 2nd), and near Pryor, Oklahoma (6.0, March 24th). The driest stations in the region reported no accumulated precipitation in March, all in Texas, and were located: near Fort Hancock, Seminole, Gail, Plains, near Tornillo, Higgins, Lipscomb, near Odessa, and near Andrews.

Drought/Flooding

During March, drought conditions largely remained the same across the Southern Region, with 42.06 percent of the region experiencing some level of drought as of March 28th, compared with 40.88 percent on March 7th. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee remained drought-free during March. Moderate drought remains present in south eastern Louisiana. Much of central and western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, central and deep southern Texas saw degradation of existing drought conditions during March, with Oklahoma seeing the percentage of Exceptional Drought increasing to 12.83% of the state by March 28th. Flooding was not common across the Southern Region in March 2023, though reported heavy rains in Sevier and Blount counties in Tennessee caused road closures on March 2nd. Water levels and flows along much of the lower Mississippi River remained well below historical means, with the exceptions being Memphis, Tennessee and Greenville, Mississippi where above average heights were observed.

Notable Weather

Thirty tornadoes were reported across the Southern Region in March, impacting all states within the region. The ratings were: 5 EF0, 17 EF1, 2 EF2, 5 EF3, and 1 EF4. Most of the tornadoes were associated with outbreaks of severe weather on March 24th and March 31st. In total 119 injuries and 26 fatalities were associated with tornadoes during March. On March 2nd a EF2 tornado near Kirby, Arkansas injured five. On March 31st an EF3 near Pulaski, Arkansas injured 54 and led to 1 fatality. On March 31st an EF3 tornado injured 26 near Wayne, Tennessee. On March 31st an EF3 tornado near Covington, Tennessee injured 28 and led to four fatalities. On March 24th an EF3 near Blackhawk, Mississippi injured five and led to three fatalities. On March 25th an EF1 tornado injured one in Union County, Mississippi. On March 24th an EF3 tornado in Monroe County, Mississippi led to two fatalities. On March 24th an EF4 tornado led to 16 fatalities in Rolling Fork, Mississippi. The largest of the 209 hail reports were two separate reports of four-inch hail, both in Texas at Cotulla on March 17th and near Dilley on March 2nd. There were a total of 314 severe wind reports impacting all states in the Southern Region with widespread reports of damage to building, downed power lines, and downed trees.

For more information, please visit the Southern Regional Climate Center Home Page.

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

A strong and cold area of low pressure persisted for nearly the entire month in the West. This brought stormy weather for most of the West with several impactful atmospheric rivers making landfall along the coast. Most of the region saw well above normal precipitation and below normal temperatures. Mountain snowpack reached record high values throughout California, the Great Basin, and Colorado River Basin, and drought conditions continued to improve.

Temperature

Below normal temperatures were widespread across nearly the entire region except for a small area in southeast New Mexico. Temperatures were 7-10 degrees Fahrenheit below normal across the Great Basin and into the northern Rockies and 3-6 degrees Fahrenheit below normal elsewhere. Much of California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming were in the bottom ten percent of the distribution for March temperatures going back to 1895 and some places were record cold. South Lake Tahoe, California had a monthly mean temperature of 26.7 degrees Fahrenheit (9.1 degrees Fahrenheit below normal) and was the coldest since records began in 1969. Toketee, Oregon also set a record for coldest March at 36.6 degrees Fahrenheit (6.8 degrees Fahrenheit below normal) with records back to 1953. Eureka, on the northern coast of California, had its second coldest March in 137 years with a monthly mean temperature of 44.9 degrees Fahrenheit (4.3 degrees Fahrenheit below normal).

Precipitation

Precipitation was well above normal for most of the West except for the northern tier of the Pacific Northwest and southeast New Mexico. Nearly all of California, Nevada, and Utah were in the top ten percent of the distribution for March precipitation and record wetness was widespread. Several atmospheric rivers produced substantial spillover precipitation in the lee side of the Sierra Nevada and Bishop, California logged its wettest March since records started in 1947 with 3.96 inches for the month (720 percent of normal). Los Angeles International Airport, California (7.42 inches; 429 percent of normal), Flagstaff, Arizona (7.27 inches; 387 percent of normal), Alta, Utah (17.06 inches; 276 percent of normal), and Yerington, Nevada (2.23 inches; 455 percent of normal) all set records for March total precipitation. Southeast New Mexico was the only place in the West to see no measurable precipitation in March with Roswell and Cavern City Airport stations both tying the record for driest March.

Snowpack

In California, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, western Colorado, and Arizona snowpack was well above normal at the end of March with most NRCS SNOTEL sites greater than 150 percent of normal snow water equivalent (SWE) and record high SWE values in many locations. In the central and southern Sierra Nevada, the long-term snow survey data from April 1 indicated that the 2023 snowpack was the deepest in the past 90 years, greater than previous benchmark years of 1952, 1969, 1983, and 2017—and in some cases by a large margin. The Mammoth Pass, California, April 1 snow survey recorded 104.5 inches of SWE, which shattered the previous record of 86.5 inches from 1969.

Drought

According to the US Drought Monitor at the end of March, 36 percent of the West was in drought with just one percent of the West in extreme (D3) or exceptional (D4) drought. The biggest drought improvements were found in California, the Great Basin, and north-central Montana. Only a few small areas of worsening drought were found in Oregon, Washington, northern Idaho, and western Montana.

Alaska Summary

Temperatures were 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit below normal in the Panhandle with many locations in the bottom third of the historical distribution for March temperatures. Juneau recorded a monthly mean temperature of 30.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit below normal). Temperatures were well above normal across the North Slope where Utqiaġvik logged a monthly mean temperature of -2.9 degrees Fahrenheit (7.6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal) for the fifth warmest March on record. Precipitation was well above normal in western Alaska and below normal in South-central and the North Slope. Nome received 2.62 inches of precipitation (354 percent of normal) for the month ranking as the third wettest since 1907. Anchorage saw just 0.14 inches (20 percent of normal) for the month coming in as the seventh driest on record.

Hawaii Summary

Precipitation was below normal for most of the Hawaiian Islands. Hilo received 7.4 inches for the month (58 percent of normal) and Hana logged 5.05 inches (60 percent of normal). South-central Hawaii (the Big Island) was one area where precipitation was above normal. The islands of Honolulu and Kauai saw warm temperatures 2-3 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. The monthly mean temperature in Honolulu was 76.9 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit above normal) ranking as the second warmest since records started in 1941. Despite mostly dry conditions across the state there were no areas in drought status at the end of March according to the US Drought Monitor.

Notable Weather

Extreme snowfall in southern California mountains leaves residents and visitors stranded: A series of cold storms impacted southern California at the end of February into the beginning of March dropping a total of over 100 inches of snow in parts of the San Bernadino mountains. While winter snow is common in this region the magnitude of this event was extreme and left many stranded in homes for weeks. At least 12 people were reported dead following this event, mostly elderly and people with chronic illness.

For more information, please go to the Western Regional Climate Center Home Page.


Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Monthly National Climate Report for March 2023, published online April 2023, retrieved on June 24, 2024 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/national/202303.