Is March weather susceptible to being unusual?

The adage about March weather coming “in like a lion, out like a lamb” was far off the mark for southern Wisconsin this year.

In Madison, it was not a particularly cold month as the average temperature was only 0.8 degrees below normal. However, we had the second-snowiest March ever — and snowiest since the record was set in 1959 — with 25.3 inches of accumulated snow. In addition, it snowed on 16 of the 31 days in the past month, so winter was unusually reluctant to loosen its grip.

Finally, on the last day of the month, though the temperature soared to 64 degrees — the first day at or above 60 since Nov. 10 — the state was visited by at least nine confirmed tornadoes.

Tornadoes in Green and Dane counties were EF1 tornadoes, with winds up to 100 mph. The others were EF0 tornadoes, with winds up to 80 mph. Some damage but no injuries were reported.

As we bid it adieu, we note that the month of March is distinguished by a couple of other meteorological oddities in our region. First, the greatest difference between the all-time warmest and all-time coldest temperatures for a calendar day in Madison is 88 and belongs to March 20 when in 2012 the high temperature was 81 degrees and in 1965 the low temperature was minus 7.

Along the same lines, if one compares the all-time warmest daily maximum temperature to the all-time coldest daily maximum temperature, the record difference is 72 on March 17 when the warmest high temperature was 80 in 2012 and the coldest high temperature was 8 in 1941.

These examples provide remarkable testimony to how variable the weather can be in southern Wisconsin around the time of the spring equinox. Here’s hoping for spring to finally make its presence known in April.

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. Send them your questions at or

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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