Posted by: pyeager | March 14, 2009

March Madness

I know I’m in the minority, but when I think of the term March Madness, I typically think of the weather, not basketball.

I’ve been a meteorologist since 1985, and not one March has gone by without some type of wild weather. Either it’s a tremendous late-season blizzard (such as the Blizzard of ’93, which is not to be confused with this Blizzard of ’93) or record flooding (such as the record flooding in the Upper Midwest in 2008) or a tremendous tornado outbreak (such as the March 2006 Super Tornado Outbreak). If there aren’t big storms, then there are huge temperature changes—one day it’s 80 and the next it’s 41. From California to North Carolina and from Minneapolis to Brownsville, we’ve all experienced March’s penchant for drama.

A March has also never gone by when I haven’t heard a friend, family member, bank teller (they love to talk about the weather), or a stranger making small talk say “The weather should always be nice by now.”

“It’s March” or “Spring starts next week,” they reason.

The meteorological reason for the wildness weather is not complicated—certainly not something that requires a four-year degree and enough math and physics classes to make Einstein Jr. squirm. March’s madness is created by the tremendous temperature contrast that develops as growing warmth of the southern sun conflicts with the harsh reality of late winter in the northern climes. While spring or early-summer warmth is never more than a southerly wind away, neither is air that originated over the snow-covered tundra of northern Canada.

The reason we expect it to be nice all the time is twofold:  March brings enough hints of nice weather (or memories of nice March weather in the past) that we know it can happen, and at the same time, we’re tired of wearing our winter coats and boots. It’s a shame that doesn’t count for anything.

–Paul Yeager

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