Of all the months of the year, March has warmed up the most since the 19th century (1869-1900). While the average annual temperature so far this century (thru 2020) has been 3.6 degrees warmer than the average annual temperature in the late 19th century, March is 6.3 degrees warmer (April is next, at +5.2 degrees). In the 19th century, March's average temperature was 36.5°, which would be considered quite cold for March of recent times (and more typical of what February's average is); the last time it was that cold in March was in 1984. (March 2018 was a cold one by today's standards, with an average temperature of 40.1°).
Eight of the coldest Marches on record are from the 19th century (and 18 of the 25 coldest). Additionally, 16 current record lows in March are from the 19th century as well as 15 record-low highs. (One outlier is March 5, 1880, which had a record high that is still in place.) Five of the six Marches with the the most highs of 32° or colder fell between 1875-1896.
Eleven daily snowfall records established in that century still stand today. The first, third and tenth snowiest Marches occurred in 1896, 1888 and 1890. But of all of the snowstorms of one foot or more that the City has had, just one was from the 19th century - the Great Blizzard of 1888 that buried the City under 21". (And for nearly 60 years it was the biggest snowstorm of all time; it's now the City's fourth greatest snowfall).
Ten of the thirty-two Marches had at least one reading in the single digits (for a total of 16). Since then, just five other years have had it happen. The last time was in 1967. The frequency of such frigid March readings dropped from once every three years, to once every generation (24 years).
Here are wintry highlights of the cold Marches of the late 19th century:
March 1, 1869 - High/low of 26°/4°.
March 14, 1870 - This was the fourteenth day in a row with highs of 40° or colder (the average high was 34°); six of the days had highs of 32° or colder. 9.5" of snow fell during this two-week period. And March 17 was the sixteenth day in a row with lows in the teens or 20s.
March 5, 1872 - This morning's low was 3°, the coldest reading ever experienced in March. This was the second of three days in a row with lows in the single digits, the most of any March. This is the third coldest March on record.
March 21, 1872 - High/low of 27°/14° on the first full day of spring.
March 20, 1875 - An ice storm on the first day of spring dropped 0.54" of liquid precipitation in temperatures that were below freezing all day (high/low was 31°/22°).
March 23, 1875 - Five of the past six days had highs of 32° or colder. Average high/low during these six days was 31°/18°.
March 18-19, 1876 - Lows of 9° on both days.
March 10, 1877 - The day after the mildest reading of the month (57°), the temperature at daybreak was 21°. This was the first of eleven days in a row in which there were no highs milder than 40°; four days in a row would see lows in the teens (coldest reading was 10° on 3/19). The average high/low during this very cold outbreak was 32°/22°.
March 19, 1877 - Yesterday's and today's frigid highs and lows of 26°/12° and 22°/10° were comparable to the Arctic cold experienced on the same two dates the previous year (30°/9° and 27°/9°).
March 12, 1883 - This was the tenth day in a row with highs colder than 40°. High/low during this time was 33°/17°. Two snowfalls during this streak amounted to 5.5".
March 30, 1883 - A snowfall of 4.5" was the sixth snowfall of four inches or more this winter (this was despite the fact that no measurable snow fell in December).
March 1-5, 1884 - The month began with five days with highs of 30° or colder, with two reporting highs of 21° and one, a high of 18°. Average high/low during these days was 23°/12°.
March 30, 1884 - It was a very late date for a sub-freezing high temperature (31°) at a time of the month when the average high is around 50°.
March 18, 1885 - Today's low of 8° was the 18th in the single digits or colder this winter, breaking a tie with the winter of 1872-73 for most on record (later passed by the winter of 1918, which had 20 frigid lows).
March 24, 1885 - This was the eighth day in a row with lows in the teens or colder. The average low during this stretch was just 13°. (March 1885 is the third coldest on record).
March 21, 1887 - Today's high of 49° was the mildest reading this March - the only March with its mildest reading below 50° (it would happen a week later as well). By comparison, January and February each had a reading in the low 60s.
March 29, 1887 - The temperature fell slowly throughout the day, from 29° shortly after midnight to 19° nearly 24 hours later.
March 2-25, 1888 - Thirteen of the days had highs of 35° or colder and fourteen had lows in the teens or colder.
March 12, 1888 - The Blizzard of '88 (also known as the Great White Hurricane) roared into an unsuspecting New York during the morning and brought the City to a standstill for the next few days. 16.5" of snow fell today, with an additional 4.5" falling tomorrow into the early morning hours of the 14th. This was New York's biggest snowstorm until Dec. 1947 (it's now ranked fourth). In addition to the large amount of snow, the storm's danger was magnified by mountainous snow drifts created by winds that gusted between 45 and 55 mph, and extreme cold, as the temperature dropped from 33° to 8°.
March 13, 1888 - A bit more snow (three inches) fell today from yesterday's blizzard, but what stood out was the extreme cold (even by mid-winter standards) as the high/low was just 12°/6° - the second coldest day ever experienced in March (the high/low on March 5, 1872 was 10°/3°). With gusty winds still prevalent, wind chills were below zero. This was the fourth March in the 1872-1888 period to have two or three days with lows in the single digits; since then it's happened in just one other year (in 1916).
March 19, 1890 - A late season snowfall of six inches was the largest accumulation of the winter, beating the snowfall of Dec. 14 by half an inch. March 1891 had four snowfalls of three inches or more; they totaled 17.1", which is the tenth greatest accumulation for the month.
March 2, 1891 - The morning low of 9° was the coldest reading all winter. This was similar to last year when the only reading in the single digits was also in March (7° on 3/7).
March 18, 1892 - Snow that began falling late last night continued through this morning and accumulated eight inches (the 7.2" that fell today is the most to fall on 3/18). This was the biggest snowfall of the winter (passing a six-inch snowfall on 1/16) and came in the midst of an unseasonably cold 12-day stretch (March 11-22) in which the high low was a cold 34°/22°.
March 15-16, 1896 - Less than two weeks after a snowfall of ten inches on March 2, an even bigger snowstorm dumped a foot of snow. (And in between these two storms, four inches fell on 3/12.) It began early in the afternoon of the 15th and by midnight 6.5" fell; an additional 5.5" fell the next day through midday. Then the snow changed to rain as the temperature rose into the mid-30s. Then on 3/23, 4.5" fell, bringing the month's total snowfall to 30.5". This would be Central Park's snowiest month until Feb. 2010, and is now ranked third (Jan. 2011 also had more). High/lows of 28°/15° on 3/24 and 32°/23° on 3/27.
March 11-18, 1900 - Lows were 22° or colder for eight consecutive days. The average low was 16°.