Warmth in March? Get rid of the snow first

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You’ve already likely noticed by now how the sun feels stronger as you step outside on a clear afternoon. In fact, you don’t even need to turn the heat on inside your vehicle as long as the sun is shining most days. With an exceptionally cold start to March expected this year, Chief Meteorologist James Zahara went back in the records to see just how long we usually had to wait for the warmth to arrive during other cold starts to previous March months.

The year 1978 proved to be the coldest March open that the Quad Cities has experienced so far, thanks in part to 8 inches of snowfall sitting on the ground. It took until March 22nd to see any substantial warmth to build in. Meanwhile, in 1890 we experienced spring-like warmth much earlier in the month thanks to a snow-free start to March.

Why the cold start to 2019? Much of it has to do with the lingering snowpack to our north, some of which is still substantially deep, especially across parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. This snow continues to feed colder air masses that drop south from Canada every so often. The amount of moisture contained in this snowpack is also quite impressive, nearing four inches in some locations.

The fact that additional snowfall is expected to fall all around the Quad Cities for the upcoming weekend will mean a continued influence on our temperatures going into the first week of March. While we will likely see some light amounts here in the immediate region, heavier snows will be south of us modifying any significant warmth trying to nudge its way north.

What we need in order to see our temperatures warm up a little more substantially is for much of the region to be snow-free. The ground is then able to absorb more of the sun’s radiation, which continues to increase each day this time of year. The more of that radiation we can absorb here at the surface, the warmer we will get.

Now, don’t forget, we don’t want all of the warmth to move in at once. The ground remains saturated and any quick warm spell will send rivers into flood territory. A slow, gradual warming trend is what will be preferred in the weeks ahead.

Meteorologist Andrew Stutzke

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