March and meteorological spring are here. What does that usually mean for the Tennessee Valley?
February 2022 was a month that wasn't too far from average in the rain department. For a bit of it, we actually stayed dry. However, a few systems made up for those dry periods, and we ended up with just over 7.5" inches of rain at the climate records site at the Northwest Alabama Regional Airport in Muscle Shoals, putting us 2.8" above average for the month of February. That has our running departure from average for 2022 so far at 4.55", with an observed 9.5" of rain there.
But today is the first day of March, and it's also the first day of meteorological spring. We denote meteorological spring at the start of March to make weather records easier to keep up with. But with a new month brings a new set of weather stats for the Tennessee Valley to help us figure out what we can usually expect for this time of year. March means a transition toward warmer weather, a transition toward higher pollen counts and allergy concerns, and it brings us into the start of the peak spring tornado season in our area.
As far as temperatures go, March averages as an overall comfortable month, but we know averages don't tell the whole story. We can definitely have serious extremes still. The record monthly high for March is 92 degrees! That was set in 1929. We can still get into the single digits though. The record monthly low in our area for March is 7 degrees, set in 1899. It should be noted that areas to our south near Birmingham were even colder just after the "Blizzard of 1993" in mid March of that year! However, we generally average in the 60s for daytime highs and the 40s for overnight low. Our average high starts at 60 degrees on March 1st and we end the month averaging almost 70 degrees for a daytime high. The month overall averages around 64 degrees for a daytime high and 42 degrees for a morning low.
March is also typically a somewhat wet month across our area, with the normal monthly precipitation total averaging at around 4.76". This is mostly because of rain and thunderstorms, but we still can definitely have winter weather in March, even significant winter storm events occasionally, and our average monthly snowfall comes in at 0.4". However, as we get deeper into March, the sun angle gets increasingly higher, and that makes melting much easier.
Of important note is that March is the start of the primary spring severe weather season in the Tennessee Valley. Tornado statistics for March in Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi significantly shoot up once we get to March, before peaking in April. We are also entering the time of year when we are statistically most likely to have strong to violent (EF2 to EF5 intensity) tornadoes. As we head into March and then April, it is highly important that you devise a severe weather safety plan and practice it, having it become secondary nature to you so that you just react out of instinct when your area is placed in a warning. Above are also some basic tips for things to have on hand and things for you to think about as we head into the spring tornado season.