A Rather Mild March in the Northeast

April 6, 2021 // Article by: Cody Hewitt

It’s almost as if a switch was flipped the moment the calendar changed to March, but indeed, the snowy pattern began to break down in late February. In fact, compared to the average or cooler March temperatures in recent years, there was an unusual number of warm surges, creating a hostile environment for snow for nearly the whole month.

The first half of March was virtually devoid of precipitation, including snowfall, sparking fears of a returning drought. While the month did start a bit on the cool side, especially in New England where highs were still stuck in the 30s, the second week threw a late spring feel our way as temperatures warmed well into the 60s and even 70s. As one would expect, records were broken across much of the Northeast on the 11th: Washington, D.C. was just short of 80 degrees with Scranton, PA and Manchester, NH reaching 74 and 72 degrees, respectively.

Cold air then tried crashing back into the region on the 14th, which actually ushered in snow showers for central and northern New England as well as parts of New York. A dusting was left behind for most, but this was the most accumulation Old Man Winter could throw our way for essentially the whole month. The pattern remained in flux until the 18th when a complex disturbance gave the region a much-needed drenching of rain, with up to 0.50 - 1.00”. Interestingly, cool air moved in behind this system by the next morning, which ironically allowed snow to accumulate across coastal areas such as the Twin Forks of Long Island and Cape Cod (again, though, not much more than a coating as in the 14th event).

On the 24th, another low pressure system developed in the Mid-Atlantic, providing a soaking 1.00 - 2.00” of rain from New York down through Virginia. This system alone marked the wettest day of March, and the warm front associated with it allowed for a summer-like feel as temperatures dramatically climbed above normal, peaking on the 26th. A well-mixed atmosphere resulted in gusty southerly winds, which aided in producing the unseasonably warm air. Records once again were broken all over the Northeast as many reached the mid 70s and even some 80s. For example, Baltimore, MD reached a whopping 83 degrees, while Albany, NY even hit a balmy 75 degrees.

While the heat took a step back as we closed the month out, one more system passed through on the 28th, which resulted in a line of severe storms that caused a decent amount of wind damage in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and southern New Jersey. While not as moisture-laden as the previous two storms, many saw at least another 0.50” of rain to further cushion their monthly precipitation total, with even a bit more as a cold front passed to end the month.

This March was clearly a departure from recent years as temperatures finished 3 to 5 degrees above normal. Many cities simply missed out on any of their regular snowfall; indeed, New York City averages nearly 4” of snow yet only recorded a trace at Central Park. In addition, Boston’s 0.1” was a far cry from their usual 7.4”. However, this milder weather did allow many to get a head start on outdoor projects in 2021.