During March, above-average temperatures were observed across the West and Great Plains with below-average temperatures in the Northeast. Above-average precipitation fell across the Northern Rockies, Central Plains and Midwest with below-average precipitation in the Southeast. During March, several winter storms impacted the Northwest and Northern Rockies. In the Northeast, a major Nor'easter dropped heavy snowfall from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. According to NOAA's National Snow Analysis, on March 1st, 35.2 percent of the contiguous U.S. had snow on the ground — mountain areas of the West, the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest, and northern New England. By March 31th, the snow cover dropped to 13.6 percent of the Lower 48 — the highest elevations in the West, parts of the Great Lakes, and northern areas of the Northeast.

CONUS snow cover anomalies
U.S. March Snow Cover Extent Anomalies
Source: Rutgers Global Snow Lab

According to NOAA data analyzed by the Rutgers Global Snow Lab,the monthly snow cover across the contiguous U.S. was 660,000 square miles, 81,000 square miles below the 1981-2010 average and the 19th smallest in the 51-year period of record. Above-average snow cover was observed across parts of the Northeast, Midwest, and Northwest. Below-average snow cover was observed in parts of the Great Basin and the Great Plains.

Western US Mountain Snowpack
April 1 Mountain Snowpack
Source: USDA

Melting of winter and spring mountain snowpack provides a crucial summer water source across much of the western United States. The total annual water budget for agriculture and human use in the mountainous West is highly dependent on the amount of snow melt that will occur in spring and is proportional to the amount of snow on the ground. As a result of late-winter storms in the Northwest and Northern Rockies and earlier-season snowfall to south, most mountain locations in the West had near- to above-average snowpack as of April 1st. Much-average-average snowpack was observed for the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the central and southern Cascades, and much of the Great Basin to Central Rockies. Locations from the northern Cascades to Northern Rockies had near-average snowpack. In Alaska, a dry March resulted in most locations across southern parts of the state to have below-average snowpack. Most of central Alaska had near- to above-average snowpack totals.

Significant Events

Mar 12-15 Snowfall
March 12-15 Northeast Snowfall

On March 12th-15th, a potent low pressure system from the Northern Plains and then along the East Coast bringing heavy snowfall from the Mid-Atlantic to New England. The storm track caused many locations right along the coast to receive mixed precipitation with the heaviest snow totals further inland. Blizzard conditions were observed across parts of New England and New York with major highways forced to close with hundreds of flights cancelled. Snowfall totals exceeding 20 inches were widespread with localized totals in the higher elevations exceeding 30 inches. West Winfield, New York observed 42 inches of snow for the event. Binghamton, New York received 31.3 inches of snow in 24 hours, a new record for the city. Strong winds were also an issue with hurricane force winds, exceeding 75 mph, observed in parts of Massachusetts. According to the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), the storm was rated a Category '3', or major winter storm for the region.

Citing This Report

NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, Monthly National Snow and Ice Report for March 2017, published online April 2017, retrieved on June 9, 2023 from https://www.ncei.noaa.gov/access/monitoring/monthly-report/snow/201703.