Coldest, snowiest March on record at Dulles Airport, snowiest since 1960 in D.C.

April 1

Wow, what a roaring March that just concluded! National Airport’s slightly more than a foot achieved a top five snowy perch – the most since way back in 1960.  Dulles Airport recorded its snowiest and coldest March of all (records go back to 1963) as well as matching its coldest March temperature (-1F).

Baltimore, Md. beat a record March low temperature from the 1800s when it plunged to 4 degrees back on March 4.

And for temperatures at National Airport, it was the coldest of our current century and the coldest since 1996.  This is also the first time at National that all three months that comprise the first quarter of the year were colder than normal since that 1996.

Let’s dig into a little more detail….

March temperatures

The preliminary estimated average temperature of 42.9F at National Airport was 3.9F below normal (1981-2010 climatology), placing March 2014 as the coldest of the 2000s, beating the previous coldest, 2005, by about 2 tenths of a degree.  Like January and February, the number of colder-than-normal days at National outweighed warmer ones in terms of frequency and intensity, but we saw a decent amount of variability of each.  Six days were 15 or more degrees colder than normal in March, while only two days were more than ten degrees warmer than normal.  Here are the daily rounded temperature anomalies at National for March 2014:


Precipitation

March’s 4.26″ at National Airport was 0.78″ wetter than normal thanks to a very wet final weekend of the month.  This places March as the third wettest of the 2000s.  Precipitation took a break for a spell inside March after an active start, but before a very active mid-to-late month that included more snow.  You can see the daily precipitation values on the bar chart below:


Rankings

While the coldest March of the 2000s (and coldest since 1996) is notable, the month was more historical in that it was the snowiest March in 54 years at National Airport.  The 12.7″ of snow at National was the highest level since 1960′s big 17.1″ result.  The other members of the top five are from the late 1800s and early 1900s when the station was downtown instead.  Here are the top ten snowiest National readings and the monthly totals of other airports (snowiest at Dulles and top 15 for Baltimore):



Here are the temperature and precipitation rankings for the 2000s for National Airport too:


CWG’s Ian Livingston computed that Dulles Airport’s average March temperature of 37.4 degrees was the coldest on record, a fraction below 1984′s average temperature of 37.5, the previous recordholder.

Plenty of additional daily records were set at all three local airports….

Washington National

March 17, 2014:   Record snowfall of 3.9″ beating 1965′s 1.9″

March 25, 2014:  Record snowfall of 1.7″ beating 1906′s 1.5″

Washington Dulles

March 4, 2014:  Record low temperature of -1F beating 1980s’s 6F and tying coldest of month (with 1993′s March 15th -1F); also record low maximum of 29F beating 2002′s 32F

March 16, 2014:  Record snowfall of 6.6″ beating 1978′s 1.6″

March 17, 2014:  Record low maximum of 30F beating 1976′s 34F

March 24, 2014:  Record low of 19F beating 1984′s 21F

March 27, 2014:  Record low maximum of 39F besting 1983′s and 1972′s 40F reading

Baltimore

March 4, 2014:  Record low of 4F beating 1873′s 5F reading to be coldest of the month (a 141-year record!)

March 27, 2014:  Record low of 20F matches 2001 and 1894

The weather pattern

March 2014 carried along a pattern type that we saw frequently through much of this winter with upper level ridging dominating the Alaska area (and this time reaching up more to the North Pole too) and cold upper level troughing hanging around the Hudson Bay area.  Counterclockwise upper level flow around the Hudson Bay vortex continued to rotate cold air masses into the U.S.  But another key feature that helped keep March in the icebox was a ridge of high pressure frequently present on the West Coast.  This prevented milder Pacific flow from dominating the pattern instead, allowing polar influences to prevail yet again.


April 2014- Slow Spring May Continue

While the month is opening on a warmer note, we still see signs of familiar pattern signatures returning in the next one to two weeks with more Alaskan ridging and Hudson Bay troughing returning to offer cooler risks to the weather for the middle third of April.  Last year, we saw the first 90-degree reading of the year at National by April 10, but that seems far less likely this time given the prevailing pattern type.  While we definitely can’t rule out some warmer volatility at times, the overall month appears headed to be our 4th month in a row of cooler than normal temperatures.  Precipitation should stay active with seasonal to above normal levels expected with occasionally active southern branch jet stream flow.

The National Weather Service final April forecast also favors a marginally higher probability of below normal temperatures for this area, but they did not make any predictions for precipitation. You can see the NWS April forecast here.

For further information

The National Weather Service publishes nice monthly assessments about five days into the start of the next month:

You can click on your closest airport location here:

Reagan National (DCA)

Dulles Airport (IAD)

Baltimore-Washington (BWI)

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Matt Rogers · April 1