March: A fickle month by any standard
Growing up in New Jersey, I had always heard the adage, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb, and vice versa." But in recent years, the various media seem to have modified the saying to read, "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb" with no vice versa. (This may be a regional thing however, because my wife, a native Washingtonian, doesn't remember the "vice versa" at all.) Anyway, is that the effect that global warming is having on us, that March always goes out like a lamb these days?
Past Marches in the local area have proven that we need to be prepared for just about any kind of weather, like 19 inches of snow (1914), temperatures as high as 93 degrees (1907), and temperatures as low as 4 degrees (1873). And the heaviest March snowstorms totaled about a foot on both March 27-28, 1891, and March 29, 1942, both very late dates for the Washington area. (The so-called "Super Storm" of mid-March 1993 -- despite the 8-16" snow that blanketed much of the region -- went down in the record books as only a 6.5" snowstorm, at least for the official measuring station at Reagan National Airport.) That storm came on the anniversary of the fabled "Blizzard of 1888," which buried the Northeast, but particularly eastern N.Y. State, including New York City, and southern New England.
Keep reading for more on the weather of March locally...
Further evidence of just how erratic March weather can be is seen from the following:
- March 28-29th, 1921 saw the greatest 24-hour temperature plunge of any month (56 degrees) when the mercury plummeted from 82 to 26 degrees.
- Although average March snowfall is only 1.6 inches at DCA, March 1958 saw several storms totaling about 11 inches (combined).
- A couple of years later, in 1960, not only was March the snowiest month (17 inches) of the entire winter, it was also the coldest--only the second time that's happened (at least since the start of official record keeping about 140 years ago).
In 1962, March will long be remembered for the ferocious and long-lived nor'easter that battered the East Coast from March 5th to the 8th. Dubbed the Ash Wednesday Storm, it dropped from 3 inches to more than a foot of snow here (and up to three feet in the mountains) and is most remembered for the widespread devastation and beach erosion it caused along the entire northeast shoreline, included the Delmarva.
Following the storm, experts commented that it was particularly destructive along the coastline because of a rare set of circumstances: (1) it lingered through five high tides; (2) it came during the exact time of a spring tide, which is when the sun, moon, and earth are in alignment (this has nothing to do with the spring season); and (3) the spring tide was a perigean spring tide, when the moon is closest to the earth. The three factors together caused historic high tides, probably higher than many hurricanes.
By the way, as you may know, although astronomical spring doesn't officially arrive until either the 20th or the 21st (the 20th this year), for record-keeping purposes spring began meteorologically on March 1st. Among other reasons, this enables the weather people to keep track of each season in even three-month increments. (The summer months are June, July, and August, etc.)
And what does the rest of March 2010 have in store, weatherwise? I'll leave that question for our forecasters. One thing is certain, however: spring will arrive (astronomically) at 1:32 P.M. EDT on March 20th.
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