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Endless March: When will spring arrive?

Brrrrrr!

I consider myself a fairly cold tolerant person. I spend my early winters outside for many hours a day in the Christmas tree fields in all kinds of weather. I grow facial hair. I wear flannel, stocking caps and coveralls. I cut many cords of firewood and I really do truly enjoy winter, snow and cold weather. I handled (and even enjoyed) winter’s worst this season, but these chilly March winds and damp conditions made me yearn for warmer spring days ahead.

It seems as March wears on each year, I am ready for spring to arrive just a little sooner. My daughter and I were discussing the continually unpleasant weather in early March. I passed along some sage wisdom from my youth: “They always used to say if March came in like a lion it would go out like a lamb.” But after multiple appearances of the early March lion, my daughter and I are still eagerly waiting on the late March lamb.

I know we are not the only ones ready for spring. Enduring a seemingly endless March is longstanding Midwestern tradition. Here are some other March weather insights from year’s gone by from the Farmers’ Almanac to take note of as we head into spring:

• A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay.

• As it rains in March, so it rains in June.

• March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers.

• So many mists in March you see, so many frosts in May will be.

• Is’t on St. Joseph’s day (19th) clear,

So follows a fertile year;

Is’t on St. Mary’s (25th) bright and clear,

Fertile is said to be the year.

In a recent podcast, Joel Penhorwood shared the “The 11 seasons of Midwestern states” that he’d found online that may be more accurate for the Ohio weather we have been seeing in recent years. Here are the 11 seasons one can expect in Ohio: Winter, Fool’s Spring, Second Winter, Spring of Deception, Third Winter, Mud Season, Actual Spring, Summer, False Fall, Second Summer (1 week), and Actual Fall.

In the estimation of our podcast group consisting of myself, Dale Minyo, Ty Higgins and Joel, we had Fool’s Spring back in February, which was followed by a fairly definitive Second Winter through early March. The wonderful sunshine and temperatures in the 50s for the Spring of Deception took place the last couple days of the Ohio Beef Expo and the day after (and to me this also always seems to coincide with some of the best of March Madness basketball watching). As I write this, temperatures have plummeted back into the 30s and there is a miserable mix of freezing rain and a bone-chilling breeze for a truly awful Third Winter, setting us up for yet another Mud Season.

Looking forward, Jim Noel with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Weather Service Ohio River Forecast Center is predicting the coming weeks to be influenced by La Niña.

“La Niña, cooling of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean waters, remains in place and is classified as a weak La Niña. This means many other things will ultimately impact our weather and climate since it is weak, but it will contribute to our pattern. Indications are this could linger into spring and possibly summer before ending. Regardless of when it ends, it tends to impact weather patterns in the atmosphere longer, sometimes up to three to six months later. So there will be a contribution to our climate pattern into at least the planting season if not growing season,” Noel said in the OSU Extension CORN Newsletter. “December to February will go down as slightly warmer and wetter than normal. Even though we had really cold periods in there, the very warm second half of February wiped all the winter cold away. Snowfall will go down in many areas as not too far from normal, a bit above or below depending on where you live. The main snow message was the snow kept coming and going away during winter.”

The cooler weather of March looks like it will spill over into April.

“The outlook for April calls for cooler and wetter than normal conditions with the last freeze normal or slightly later than normal. Expect 4-inch soil temperatures to track normal or slightly behind schedule,” Noel said. “After a slightly cooler and wetter spring (delayed planting?), there is growing risk of a turn to hotter and drier, during the summer growing season. However, within that preferred pattern, there is the risk of complexes of storms to provide intense short-term heavy rainfall and floods within a drier than normal pattern.

“What this all means is this year the risk will be elevated for extreme weather and climate shifts which challenge outdoor activities such as gardening and farming.”

The strength and duration of the La Niña will also be worth watching as we move through the growing season.

“Research NOAA/NWS/Ohio River Forecast Center has done with Ohio State University and published at the National Weather Association Annual Meeting in 2008 showed La Niña years tend to be some of the most challenging for crops in Ohio,” Noel said. “Often times corn and soybean yields end up being at or below trend line. Corn is impacted more than soybeans.”

I only have a few days of firewood left at the house (I do have a couple of truckloads of cut and seasoned wood elsewhere that I was planning on saving for next year). Unless I dip into next year’s supply, it seems that if the cold weather hangs on much longer I’ll have to fire up the propane furnace. I truly love all of Ohio’s 11 seasons — yes, even Mud Season. They each have their own appeal. But, like most of you, I am eagerly awaiting warmer days, planting season and the triumphant arrival of Actual Spring.

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