Has March been a bit unusual so far?

It has been a fairly benign first two weeks of March for those of us in southern Wisconsin.

2021 Daily Temperatures for Madison through March 12th. Note the large swing from February to March denoted by the black line. Credit: Wisconsin Climatology Office

Through the first 11 days of the month, we have averaged 6.2 degrees above normal. In fact, in the nearly three weeks since Feb. 22 — when we had this season’s maximum snow depth of 16 inches in Madison — we have averaged the same 6.2 degrees above normal.

During that stretch of days, we have had only three (March 1, 2 and 4) where the daily average temperature was below normal — and it was only slightly below at that. The result of this exceptional, uninterrupted stretch of mild weather has been the most rapid disappearance of a substantial snow cover that we have seen in quite some time in Madison.

Officially, March 10 was the first day with a snow depth of zero inches since Dec. 11. During this late-winter mild spell we have lost nearly 1 inch of snow cover each day for nearly three weeks.

It is important to remember that March is not always so kind. In fact, traditionally the week of March 10-17 has been quite wintery on occasion across the country. In 1870, the word “blizzard” was first used to describe a snowstorm in Iowa’s Estherville Indicator (March 14). New York City was visited by its worst snowstorm ever on March 12-13, 1888. The worst blizzard in the history of Minnesota and North Dakota occurred on March 15, 1941; 4 feet of snow fell at Inwood, Iowa, on March 11, 1962, and the “Storm of the Century” dropped snow from Alabama to Maine on March 13, 1993.

So, if you have been conscious of a certain benevolence to this March’s weather thus far, your instinct is correct.

Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month.

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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