March 2013 Climate Summary for Huntsville and Muscle Shoals


March 2012 vs March 2013 500 millibar height anomalies across North America. What a difference a year makes!  The difference in the pattern across North America between March 2012 and March 2013 is a great example of what climate scientists refer to as interannual variability.  This is the varibability that occurs from year to year due to natural fluctuations in large scale pressure systems (or near-surface ocean temperatures) that can have impacts on seasonal weather and climate.  In the image of 500 mb height anomalies to the right (click on the image for a larger version), this difference between March 2012 and March 2013 can be easitly observed.  In the image, color shades from green to orange/red indicate areas where 500 mb heights were above normal for the indicated month/year, while blue/magenta shades represent areas where 500 mb anomalies were below normal.  Generally, the warmer colors correspond to warmer low-level temperatures, and vice-versa.  While a very unusual blocking pattern featuring an expansive and stagnant upper high pressure system was prevalent during March 2012 over eastern North America, nearly the exact opposite was present during March 2013.  Last March was the warmest on record locally, and for many locations in central and eastern North America, while this March featured much below normal temperatures across much of the eastern United States.  While certainly not the coldest March on record, it did rank in the top 10 at Huntsville.  In fact, March temperatures were colder than December temperatures, which has only happened seven times in the historical record at Huntsville, and not since 1959.  In addition to that year, the following years are the only times this has occurred in the record: 1956, 1946, 1940, 1933, 1931, and 1923.  Most of the month recorded daily temperatures that were below normal.  Temperatures at the beginning of the month were about 10-15 degrees below normal on some days, and were quite cold again later in the month, with daytime highs only in the low to mid 40s (some of our colder locations recorded highs only in the 30s on the 25th and 26th).  Conditions were cold enough for snow showers on the 25th and 26th across much of the area.  Brief periods of relatively warm weather occurred on the 10th and again on the 15th through the 17th, but warm weather was certainly the exception rather than the rule.  By the time March had come to a close, it ranked as the 10th coldest at Huntsville, and was the coldest March since 1996 there, while it ranked as the 20th coldest at Muscle Shoals.  Interestingly, in spite of the pervasive cold temperatures for the month, no daily record low temperatures were set.  

Of note, despite the recent cold trend, Huntsville did not record a temperature in the teens during the entire "cold season" of 2012-2013.  This is the first time this has happened in the historical record at Huntsville.  Similarly, temperatures in the teens were not recorded during the cold season at Muscle Shoals.  This has happened only one other cold season there, during the winter of 1952-1953.     

 Daily Temperature Graphs for the month of March for each location (click on the images for a larger version).

Huntsville - Mar 2013 Temperature Graph

Muscle Shoals - Mar 2013 Temperature Graph

Daily Temperatures for Huntsville March 2013 - click on the image for a larger version. Daily Temperatures for Muscle Shoals March 2013 - click on the image for a larger version.

Temperature Statistics for the Month of March at Huntsville and Muscle Shoals. All temperatures are in degrees Fahrenheit.

March Statistic


Muscle Shoals

Average Monthly Temperature 47.4 48.1
Normal Temperature* 53.5 53.2
Deviation From Normal 6.1 Below Normal 5.1 Below Normal
Monthly Ranking** 10th Coldest 20th Coldest
Warmest March 63.4 (2012) 63.3 (2012)
Coldest March 40.9 (1960) 40.3 (1960)
Max Temperature 76 (Mar 15th/16th) 79 (Mar 15th)
Min Temperature 26 (Mar 21st) 26 (Mar 27th)
All-Time Max Temperature

90 (Mar 24, 1909) 
     (Mar 21, 1907)

92 (Mar 25, 1929)
All-Time Min Temperature

6 (Mar 3, 1980)

7 (Mar 7, 1899)

Record Highs



Record Lows None None



Precipitation was near to above normal across most of the Huntsville forecast area for the month of March, although some precipitation deficits did occur mostly in portions of southern Tennessee, and in NW Alabama.  The precipitation total of 5.55 inches at Huntsville was 0.34 inches above normal.  At Muscle Shoals, the total of 4.77 inches was 0.01 inch above normal.  Rainfall exceeding one inch was recorded on the 11th (1.32 inches) and the 23rd (1.52 inches) at Huntsville, and on the 11th at Muscle Shoals (1.04 inches).  Snowfall occurred on several days during the month, but only trace amounts were reported.  At Huntsville, traces of snowfall were recorded on the 1st through the 3rd, and again on the 25th and 26th, while traces of snow occurred at the Shoals on the 1st, 2nd and 25th. 

Precipitation Estimates and Departures from Normal for March for the Huntsville Forecast Area (amounts are in units of inches).

Precipitation Estimates

Precipitation Departures from Normal

Precipitation estimates - click on the image for a larger version Estimated precipitation anomalies - click on the image for a larger version


March Precipitation Statistics for Huntsville and Muscle Shoals (amounts are in units of inches). 

March Statistic


Muscle Shoals

Monthly Precipitation 5.55 4.77
Normal Precipitation 5.21 4.76
Departure from Normal 0.34 Above Normal 0.01 Above Normal
Monthly Ranking Over 50th Over 50th
Wettest March 17.00 (1980) 16.15 (1897)
Driest March 0.50 (1910) 1.26 (1910)
Wettest Calendar Day 1.52 (Mar 23rd) 1.04 (Mar 11th)
Record Wettest Day 5.24 (Mar 16, 1973) 5.20 (Mar 12, 1920)
Monthly Snowfall Trace Trace
Normal Snowfall 0.5 1.0
Record Monthly Snowfall 7.3 (1993) 5.0 (1968)

The Monthly Outlook for April from the Climate Prediction Center...
The one month temperature outlook indicates slightly higher chances for above normal temperatures for the Tennessee Valley climatic zones.  The 3-tiered probabilities are as follows...

Above Normal....35%
Near Normal......33%
Below Normal....32%

The one month precipitation outlook indicates equal chances for above, near or below normal precipitation for the central Tennessee Valley climatic zones. The 3-tiered probabilities are as follows...

Above Normal....33%
Near Normal......34%
Below Normal....33%

What is normal for April? ...Huntsville daily normals and records / Muscle Shoals daily normals and records

* Normal temperatures and precipitation are based on the 1981-2010 climatological period. All temperature data are expressed in degrees Fahrenheit.
** Temperature data for Huntsville go back to 1907, while precipitation data are available since 1894. Any months that contain missing daily temperature or precipitation data are not counted in the rankings.

*** Temperature and precipitation data for Muscle Shoals go back to 1893, however sporadic outages of data occur especially in the 1910s and again from September 1995 through May 1997. Any months that contain missing daily temperature or precipitation data are not counted in the rankings.

Note...all data above are preliminary and have not undergone final quality control by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). Therefore, these data are subject to revision. Final and certified data can be accessed at the NCDC at the following location...

One month and seasonal temperature and precipitation outlooks may be obtained from the Climate Prediction Center at the following location...

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