March Almanac

Photograph by Kathy Bell, owner of kbella photography.

March marks the start of both meteorological and astronomical spring. It is definitely a time of transition in Alabama. As the days lengthen and the sun moves higher in the sky, average temperatures start to climb. The average high in Birmingham at the start of the month is 62F. By month’s end, the average daytime high is 71F. The average low at the start of the month is 40F. By March 31st, the average is 47F. The warmest it has ever been in March was 90F on March 21st, 1907, as Birmingham was in the middle of an unusual heat wave. That reading was taken when the official observation station was at the U.S. Weather Bureau office in Fountain Heights. The hottest it ever was at the Birmingham Airport was 89F on March 19. 1982.

The coldest March reading in Birmingham history was 2F on March 14, 1993. That was the day after the 1993 blizzard, which is also remarkable for producing the city’s biggest snowfall ever, 13 inches at the Airport. The temperature generally drops to freezing or below on 6.1 days in the month. The average date of the last freeze usually occurs in mid to late March.

March is the wettest month of the year in Birmingham. On average, 5.23 inches of rain falls in the Magic City. The 15.80 inches that fell in March 1980 is the most ever recorded in the third month of the year. It occurred during a month of flooding.

The 1.02 inches that fell in 2007 is the least recorded in March. It rains on 11.0 days on average, which ranks third behind July at 12.4 days and January at 11.2 days.

Thunderstorms occur on 4.6 days. The months of April through August are all stormier, but March does mark the beginning of the primary severe weather season, at least in North and Central Alabama. Alabama’s deadliest tornado outbreak in history occurred on March 21, 1932.

The percentage of possible sunshine is on the increase, averaging 55% in the month, up from the 42 percent that is typical of January, but still less than the 66 percent we usually see in May and October. The sky is cloudy 41 percent of the time. It is clear 24.2 percent of the time.

March is tied with April as the windiest month of the year, with an average wind speed of 7.6 mph.

– Bill Murray