March Weather Outlook

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February was certainly a month to remember but not for the best reasons. Officially, we totaled 6.0” of snow for the month and a whopping 5.25” of rain. This caused major flooding in the southwest part of the state during the latter half of the month but we endured enough flooding problems of our own here in central Ohio. This 3” surplus of rain for the month was enough to break us into the top 10 wettest February on record. dating back to the late 1800’s.

Courtesy of NWS Wilmington Ohio

It was the wettest February since 1990 and officially the 7th wettest February on record. Temperature wise, we started off below normal but then the torch turned up a notch during the second half of the month. This gave us an average temperature of 38.8 degrees, which was 6 degrees above average.

This was enough to break us into the top 10 warmest Februarys on record at number 8 on the list. February in 2017 was the warmest on record, with an average temperature of 42.23 degrees.

Now the big question is, what can we expect for the month of March? Is the snow over? Is the severe weather season arriving earlier than normal? Do we still have to turn the clocks forward? Well, some of the questions are easier to answer than others. And yes, you will have to turn the clocks forward as we “spring ahead” on March 11th at 2:00 a.m., so get caught up on the sleep now! As for the remaining questions, let’s dig into them in a little more detail.

Courtesy NWS Wilmington Ohio

First here’s a look at some climate history for the month of March. This graphic shows historically what our temperatures are and how much rain/snow we receive for the month.

Now, let’s look at what some meteorological data is suggesting for March of 2018.

Each month, the Climate Prediction Center(CPC) releases monthly outlooks for both temperature and precipitation.

Breaking it down across the country, areas that are in a shade of blue have better chances to be colder than average while areas shaded in red have better chances to be above average. Areas that lack color and have a “EC” label means that these areas have equal chances to be above average, average, or below average(1/3 chance for each).

While there isn’t a strong signal, this graphic suggests that parts of northern Ohio have a slight favor towards above average temperatures while southern Ohio has equal chances.

Now let’s talk about precipitation. Again, areas in the darker green hold better probabilities of receiving more rain than average; while areas in dark brown will likely see less than average.

For central Ohio, there isn’t a strong signal but it’s suggesting that we have greater than a 33% probability to receive more precipitation than normal. This graphic does not directly account for snowfall in inches but rather the liquid equivalent.

Going into the start of the month, models are suggesting that we could have some cooler air pull down from the upper Midwest into the Ohio Valley during the first couple weeks. Below you will see two different graphics for two different models for late next week.

What is shown are two different models, EURO & GFS, which both show some cooler air pulling in the mid-levels of the atmosphere over the area later next week. While they differ in the intensity of the northwest flow & placement of colder air, they both show a shift in the pattern. This shows more of an active weather pattern which may suggest we could see rain, and perhaps, some snow mixing in as colder air builds. It looks short-lived; thus, temperatures will likely rebound over the weekend.

This shouldn’t be looked at as a forecast for a specific storm but more so a signal of colder air moving in with the possibility of some form of precipitation during this timeframe.

Spring doesn’t officially start until March 20nd and historically, we receive around 4” of snow in the month.

Given this information, climatological resources and other meteorological data, I think we still could see some snow this month but it will likely be during these first couple weeks.

As far as severe weather for this month, that’s where things get a lot more complicated. While we have just entered meteorological spring(March, April and May) severe thunderstorms and tornadoes can happen any day of the year.

Courtesy ustornadoes.com

As we begin the transition into spring, historically we see begin to see more chances of severe weather but the peak months are April, May and June across the United States.

On average, Ohio sees around 19 tornadoes per year but most of these stronger storms that produce tornadoes typically occur during the months of April, May and June.

Given the past “warmer than average” month, it isn’t enough to suggest that we will see more severe weather this month or that the severe weather season will arrive early. Even considering the effects of La Nina & El Nino(temperature fluctuations between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific) which influences the weather across the world; there isn’t strong supporting evidence to justify that the current La nina(cold phase) will cause an increase in severe weather in a monthly timescale.

And according to a recent article by the CPC on the current La nino, scientists are expecting a shift to a neutral phase to occur during this meteorological spring; which is essentially a transitional period between the two different phases.

The discussion of the severe weather season is beyond the scope of this blog as it primary focus is the month of March. This will become more of a discussion at a later time with its own blog.

The takeaway from this should be that as each day passes, we are getting closer to severe weather season no matter how you look at it and you should start going over your severe weather plan.

This month will likely feature a slight shift from near average to below temperatures for the first 2 weeks and will then revert to normal and above average for the latter half. Overall, the month will be slightly above average with respect to temperatures.

Best chances for any snow this month will likely be during these first few weeks, with slightly above average precipitation for the month.

Each month, I’ll revisit the previous month, look at what happened and compare it to my initial forecast. We’ll then go forward and jump into the next month and see what kind of weather we could be looking at for the next four weeks.