MARCH 2015


1-7: Generally dry weather covered the country, with the exception of some light precipitation on the southern Plains. Contiguous U.S. snow cover reached a season-high 63.4 percent on March 1 but fell below 40 percent by week’s end largely on the strength of melting in the south-central U.S. However, cold weather overall maintained its grip in most areas east of the Rockies, holding weekly temperatures at least 10F below normal in a broad region stretching from Texas into the Great Lakes and Northeastern States. Florida, which experienced warm weather, was the primary exception to the cold regime. Meanwhile, cooler weather in the West held temperatures to near normal levels. In general, temperatures in California were not low enough to threaten fruit and nut crops that have experienced rapid development due to record setting February warmth. In contrast, sub-zero temperatures were reported from the northern Plains into the Northeast. The strongest push of cold air occurred from March 4-6, with some rapid west to east warming noted by week’s end. On the northern Plains, bitter cold weather remained a concern with respect to winter wheat, which has not been adequately insulated by snow during several recent Arctic outbreaks.

March began with bitterly cold air in place over the Northeast, where record setting lows for March 1 dipped to -14F in Bangor, ME, and -10F in Glens Falls, NY. Later, warmth briefly overspread the Deep South in advance of a Southwestern storm. By March 3, daily record tying highs in Florida soared to 87F in Ft. Myers and 85F in Tampa. The following day, record-setting highs for March 4 surged to 85°F at Audubon Park in New Orleans, LA, and 84F in Savannah, GA. In contrast, another strong push of frigid air began to engulf the central and eastern U.S. Huron, SD, reported a wind gust to 52 mph on the morning of March 3. A day later, Rawlins, WY, reported a daily record low (-21F) for March 4. Enough cool air briefly reached the Northwest to produce a daily-record low (25Fon March 4) in Hillsboro, OR. Farther east, monthly record lows were broken on March 6 in several locations, including Frankfort, KY (-10F); Cape Girardeau, MO (-8F); Paducah, KY (-6F); and Pittsburgh, PA (-5F). With a low of -2F on March 6, Lexington, KY, tied a monthly record originally set on March 6, 1960. Harrisburg, PA, set monthly record lows on consecutive days, with minima of 0°F on March 6 and -1F on March 7. In New Orleans, Audubon Park reported a freeze (32F on March 6) less than 48 hours after posting a daily record high. On March 5- 6, consecutive daily record lows were set in locations such as Saranac Lake, NY (-21 and -29F); Montpelier, VT (-6 and -16F); and Youngstown, OH (-1 and -4F). Other daily-record lows for March 5 plunged to -12F in Dubuque, IA; 10F in Oklahoma City, OK; and 12F in Childress, TX. Record lows for March 6 included -26F in Houlton, ME; -3F in Parkersburg, WV; and 9°F in Batesville, AR, and Nashville, TN. Farther west, however, late-week warmth returned to the Pacific Coast States and spread eastward. In southern California, record-setting highs for March 6 soared to 87F in Long Beach and 86F in Santa Maria. In Oregon, Klamath Falls (65 and 68F) and Burns (62 and 67°F) closed the week with consecutive daily-record highs on March 6-7. Warm weather continued in Alaska, where weekly temperatures averaged 10 to 20F above normal at most mainland locations. Daily-record highs were several in many communities, including Annette Island (53F on

March 2); Kodiak (47F on March 5 and 7); and Bethel (42F on March 2).


8-14: Mild, mostly dry weather from the lower Great Lakes region into the New England led to an orderly start to the snow-melt season. Dry weather also prevailed in many other parts of the U.S., including the upper Midwest and most areas from California to the Great Plains.

Some mid- to late-week precipitation was noted from the Pacific Northwest to the northern Rockies, but meager snowpack remained a concern in the Cascades. Farther south, California and the Great Basin not only headed toward a certain fourth year of drought, but also saw some premature melting of already anemic snowpack. Weekly temperatures averaged 10 to 20°F above normal in a broad area covering the northern half of the

Plains and the upper Midwest. Warm conditions also dominated the West, with temperatures averaging at least 10F above normal in several locations. Lingering cool conditions were limited to New England and portions of the south-central U.S. Record breaking warmth dominated the north-central U.S., where Fargo, ND, notched six daily record highs in 7 days from March 9-15. Fargo’s warmth peaked with highs of 68 and 75F, respectively, on March 14-15. Warmth was equally persistent in the West, where Yakima, WA, posted daily record highs on March 9, 10, 12, and 14. Yakima’s highest reading during the warm spell was 74F  on March 9. During the second half of the week, warmth intensified from California to the northern Plains. Downtown Los Angeles notched four consecutive highs of 90F or greater, starting on March 13—the longest such March streak on record in that location. The heat wave in Los Angeles peaked with a high of 93F on March 14. On the same date, other daily record highs in southern California included 95F in Santa Maria; 94F in Santa Ana and Long Beach; 91F in Bakersfield; and 90F in San Diego. Santa Ana also collected a daily record high (96F) on March 13. In central California, monthly record highs were tied or broken on March 15 in locations such as Salinas (92F; previously, 88F on March 9, 1934) and Gilroy (90F; tied 90F on March 20, 1997). Dozens of additional daily records were established during the week in the western and north-central U.S., while warmth also overspread the lower Southeast. Daily record highs for March 11 climbed to 87F in Savannah, GA, and 86F in Florence, SC. On March 11-12, Ft. Myers, FL, registered consecutive daily record highs (88 and 90F). Elsewhere in Florida, Naples (90 and 89F) and Tampa (88 and 86F) logged consecutive daily record highs on March 12-13. After mid-week, surges of warmth across the northern Plains and upper Midwest led to daily record highs in numerous locations, including Sioux City, IA (78°F on March 12), and Glasgow, MT (75F on March 14).


15-21:  Another week of warm, dry weather led to further premature melting of mountain snowpack from California to the Intermountain West. By week’s end, the average water content of the high elevation Sierra Nevada snowpack stood at 3 inches, less than 10 percent of the late- March normal. In contrast, beneficial precipitation fell in the southern Rockies and the Pacific Northwest, just clipping northwestern California, although deficient

snowpack remained a concern in many other areas of the West outside of drought-stricken California. Generally dry conditions stretched eastward from California across the northern half of the Plains and much of the Midwest. Drought began to expand across the upper Midwest, following a nearly snow-free winter, but favorably dry weather in the Ohio Valley allowed swollen rivers to begin to recede. Near to above normal temperatures dominated the U.S., except the Northeast. In New England, weekly temperatures generally averaged 5 to 10F below normal. Meanwhile, the most anomalous warmth covered the lower Southeast and stretched from California and the Desert Southwest into the upper Midwest. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 10° above normal at several Southeastern locations, and averaged as much as 15F above normal in an area centered on Wyoming and Nebraska. Across the central Plains, the early season warm spell peaked on March 16, when monthly were tied or broken in Nebraska locations such as Norfolk (92F) and North Platte (91F). Early in the week, record-setting warmth stretched from the Pacific Coast to the Great Plains. Rapid City, SD, posted a monthly record high of 84F on March 15, edging by 1F a mark most recently attained on March 31, 2012. The following day, March 16, featured the aforementioned monthly record highs in Nebraska, along with a fourth consecutive day of 90F heat in downtown Los Angeles, CA. Los Angeles had only twice experienced as many as 3 consecutive March days with 90 degree heat March 9-11, 1934, and March 24-26, 1988. In addition, Grand Island, NE (90°F on March 16), noted its earliest 90-degree reading on record (previously, 90F on March 22, 1907). Fresno, CA (91°F on March 15), also notched its earliest 90-degree heat (previously, 90F on March 17, 1972). In southern California, five consecutive daily record highs were set from March 12-16 in Camarillo (89, 92, 92, 88, and 86F). Vista, CA, posted four consecutive daily records (92, 94, 93, and 89F) from March 13-16. Among a stunning array of daily record highs on March 16 were readings of 99F in Death Valley, CA; 94F in Hill City, KS; 93F in McCook, NE; 90F in Sioux City, IA; and 90F in Ft. Myers, FL. Warmth was suppressed during the mid- to late week period but lingered across the South and West. On March 16-17, Salt Lake City, UT, registered consecutive daily record highs of 74F. On the same dates, Tallahassee, FL, collected daily record highs of 88 and 89F, respectively. Toward week’s end, warmth returned to portions of the nation’s mid-section and lingered across the South and West. Tallahassee reported another daily-record high (89F) on March 20. With a daily record high of 79F on the 20th, Sioux City, IA, noted its seventh March day of 70-degree warmth. Meanwhile in California, late-week records included 81F (on March 19) in Sacramento and 80F (on March 20) in Sandberg.


22-28: Mostly dry weather covered the nation, except for scattered totals in excess of an inch in the Northwest, Southeast, mid-South, and lower Midwest. From the western Gulf Coast region to the Mississippi Delta. Farther north, however, rain fell across much of the mid-South and lower Midwest. Generally dry weather covered the Plains. Meanwhile, unfavorably warm, dry weather prevailed from central and southern California to the southern

Rockies. Warmth also covered the Northwest, despite periodic showers. Weekly temperatures averaged at least 10F above normal in numerous locations from California and the Desert Southwest to the northern High Plains. Elsewhere, near to below normal temperatures prevailed from the Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic Seaboard. Temperatures generally averaged 5 to 10F below normal from the Great Lakes States into the Northeast.

At week’s end, a strong surge of cold air reached deep into the Southeast, threatening peaches and other freeze sensitive crops. Early-week warmth was most prominent across the South, where daily record highs in Texas included 87F (on March 23) in Lubbock and

81F (on March 22) in Dalhart. Meanwhile, frigid conditions persisted in the Northeast, resulting in daily-record lows for March 24 in Bangor, ME (4F), and Binghamton, NY (10F). In advance of a strong cold front, high soared to daily record levels on March 25 in Ft.

Smith, AR (86F), and McAlester, OK (84F). During the second half of the week, warmth exploded across the West and quickly expanded across the nation’s mid-section. Paso Robles, CA, tied a monthly record with a high of 91F on March 26, followed by a new March record of 93F on the 27th. With a high of 83F, Sandberg, CA, also achieved a monthly record high on March 27. Elsewhere in California, downtown Los Angeles experienced its sixth day of 90-degree heat on the 27th, doubling its previous March record of 3 such days in 1934, 1988, and 1997. Similarly, San Diego, CA, reported its seventh day of 80-degree warmth on March 27, toppling its March standard of 5 days set in 1947 and 1988. Meanwhile in Montana, monthly records were tied on March 28 in Miles City (83F) and Billings (80F). Previously, Billings’ earliest 80-degree reading had occurred on March 31, 2004 and 2012. Sheridan, WY, also tied a monthly record with a high of 80F on March 28. In the Desert Southwest, consecutive daily record highs were set on March 28-29 in locations such as Death Valley, CA (102F both days); Palm Springs, CA (98 and 100F); and Phoenix, AZ (95 and 97°F). Farther north, daily record highs for March 28 surged to 83F in Rapid City, SD, and 80F in Dickinson, ND. In the East, however, lingering heat in Florida contrasted with a sharp cold snap farther north. In Florida, record setting highs for March 27 climbed to 91F in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. The following day, March 28, Akron-Canton, OH, registered a daily record low of 12F. By Sunday morning, March 29, freezes were noted as far south as central Georgia, where Macon (27F) collected a daily-record low.


29-31: Dry weather dominated the West, including California. In fact, periods of light precipitation were confined to the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rockies, although

a late-week pattern change brought precipitation to northern California’s doorstep. Precipitation was also scarce across the Plains.  Wet conditions re-intensified across the Ohio Valley and neighboring regions, bringing a return of lowland flooding. Farther north and west, dry conditions persisted across much of the far upper Midwest, although beneficial showers dotted an area centered on the Iowa-Missouri-Nebraska triple point. Warm weather prevailed for much of the week across the nation’s mid-section. Cold weather was especially persistent in northern New England, although a Southeastern freeze on March 29. Warmth lingered late in the month across the West, capping the warmest

March on record in dozens of locations. Record setting March warmth stretched from the Pacific Coast to the Intermountain West, encompassing California cities such as [downtown] Los Angeles (68.2F), San Diego (66.6F), and Fresno (64.0F). Previous March records had been set in 1931, 1978, and 1934, respectively. With an average temperature of 49.7F, Salt Lake City, UT, edged a March record originally set in 1910. Colville, WA, with 46.7F, toppled a March 1926 standard. March average temperature records from 2004 were broken in locations such as Las Vegas, NV (66.7F), and Paso Robles, CA (60.2F). Death Valley, CA, ended the month with five consecutive daily record highs (99, 102, 102, 103, and 104F) from March 27-31. Previously, Death Valley’s highest March temperature had been 103F on March 31, 2011. Meanwhile, Alamosa, CO, posted four daily record highs in a row (69, 71,

69, and 71F) from March 27-30. Phoenix, AZ, closed the month with five consecutive readings of 95F or greater, including a daily record high of 97F on March 29. In stark contrast, March 29 featured daily record lows in a large number of Eastern locations, including Elkins, WV (7F); Zanesville, OH (13F); Lynchburg, VA (17F); Greenville-Spartanburg, SC (25F), and Macon, GA (27F). Farther west, warmth shifted to the nation’s mid-section. The last day of March featured daily record highs in Mobridge, SD (80F), and Havre, MT (78F). Record setting highs for April 1 climbed to 84F in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, and 82 F in La Crosse, WI. Later, the passage of a cold front brought high winds to the north-central U.S., while pushing warmth into the South.

Jim G. Munley, jr.

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