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Assessing the U.S. Climate in March 2021

February Cold Wave identified as the first billion-dollar disaster of 2021; contiguous U.S. experienced above-average temperatures during March

Picture of downtown Scottsdale, AZ
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The Cold Wave that occurred across the central United States in mid-February has preliminary damage losses in excess of $10 billion. Texas experienced the majority of these losses, with costly impacts occurring in more than a dozen additional states. This event is the most costly winter storm event on record for the U.S., surpassing losses associated with the Superstorm of 1993.

During March, the average contiguous U.S. temperature was 45.5°F, 4.0°F above the 20th-century average. This ranked in the warmest third of the 127-year period of record. The year-to-date (January-March) average contiguous U.S. temperature was 36.9°F, 1.8°F above average, also ranking in the warmest third of the record. The  March precipitation total for the contiguous U.S. was 2.45 inches, 0.06 inch below average, and ranked in the middle third of the 127-year period of record. The year-to-date precipitation total was 6.55 inches, 0.41 inch above average, ranking in the middle third of the January-March record. 


This monthly summary from  NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information is part of the suite of climate services NOAA provides to government, business, academia and the public to support informed decision-making.





  • Above-average temperatures were observed from the Northwest to the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and into the Northeast. Temperatures across North Dakota were fourth warmest on record. Below-average temperatures were present across parts of the West Coast during March.  
  • The  Alaska March temperature was 7.2°F, 3.6°F below the long-term average. This ranked in the coldest third of the 97-year period of record for the state and was the coldest March since 2017. On average, the coldest departures from average occurred across south-central Alaska while much of the North Slope was near average. Bering Sea ice extent was 81 percent of average for March, which contributed to above-average temperatures across the Aleutians. 





  • Above-average precipitation was observed from the central U.S. to the Tennessee Valley and Gulf Coast in March. Nebraska precipitation ranked second wettest for the month.  Below-average precipitation occurred across the Northwest, northern Plains, Northeast, as well as portions of the Southeast, Deep South and West. Montana and North Dakota ranked second driest on record for the month.
  • Precipitation across Alaska during March was much above average across western and northwestern Alaska as well as south of the Brooks Range. Juneau reported its snowiest March since 2007.
  • According to the March 30 U.S. Drought Monitor report, nearly 44 percent of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, down from 46.6 percent at the beginning of March. Drought conditions intensified and expanded across portions of the Northeast, Texas, northern Plains and California. Drought intensity and/or coverage lessened across parts of the central Rockies and central Plains as well as across Puerto Rico and was eliminated in Hawaii. 


Year-to-date (January-March) 




  • Above-average temperatures were present across the Northern Tier and Northeast as well as portions of the West and Southeast. Despite the broad extent of warmth seen during March across the Lower 48, temperatures over the first three months of the year were near average across a wide portion of the U.S. This was in large part due to the cold weather experienced during February. Below-average temperatures occurred across portions of the South.
  • The Alaska January-March temperature was 6.3°F, 0.4°F above the long-term average, ranking in the middle third of the record for the state. Above-average temperatures occurred across Bristol Bay and the Aleutians during the first three months of 2021 with the remainder of the state experiencing near-average conditions. 





  • Above-average precipitation stretched from the central Plains to the East Coast during January-March. Nebraska ranked second wettest on record. Dry conditions were present across much of the West, northern Plains, Great Lakes, Northeast and parts of the South and Southeast. North Dakota ranked driest on record for this three-month period.


For more detailed climate information, check out our comprehensive March 2021 U.S. Climate report scheduled for release on April 13, 2021.