In a wild and wooly start — weather-wise — to 2018 the United States experienced three weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding 1$ billion each. These included a severe storm in the Southeast and two winter storms in the central and eastern parts of the country. They caused at least 34 deaths and had devastating economic impacts.
Taking a closer look at the numbers, the average March temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 42.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 1.1 degrees above average, and it ranked near the middle of the 124-year record, according to scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s National Centers for Environmental Information. Temperatures were below average in the East Coast, Northern High Plains and West and above average across the south-central U.S. and parts of New England and the upper Midwest.
Precipitation total for March was 2.42 inches, which was .09 of an inch below average, also ranking near the middle of the record. Above-average precipitation was observed across parts of the West, Northern Rockies and plains, Midwest and South. Precipitation was below average in the Northwest, Southwest, Great Lakes, Southeast and East Coast.
For the year to date (January through March), the average temperature was 36.8 degrees F, 1.6 degrees above average, placing it among the warmest third of climate record. This was the coldest start of the year for the nation since 2014. Precipitation for the year to date totaled 7.13 inches, which is .17 inches below normal.
Regionally, four Nor’easters slammed into the Northeast in March with heavy snow and unwanted cold temperatures in the Midwest and from the Southern Appalachians to New England. Some places in the East had more snow during March than during the previous winter months combined. Cities such as Boston, Albany and Philadelphia had top-five snowfall totals.
On the Gulf Coast, a severe storm system hit with damaging winds, hail and tornadoes in mid-March. More than 20 tornadoes were reported in Alabama and total damages exceeded $1 billion with three fatalities.
In Alaska, the average March temperature was 17.7 degrees F, 6.9 degrees above the long-term average. This tied with 1996 for the ninth warmest March in the 94-year period of record for the state.
Conversely, drought conditions got worse in 29 percent of the lower 48 states in March. The drought worsened across the Central Plains, Southwest and coastal Southeast, but they improved in parts of the West, Great Plains and interior Southeast.