Just how long will it be before spring?

It’s hard to believe that exactly one year ago, the water cooler talk was all about daytime highs of 14 C

Every once in a while I feel I need to point out when I write these articles. My due date is the Monday before you read this. Most of the time, I write the article sometime during the day on Sunday, not because I like to procrastinate and leave things to the last minute — well, maybe that has a little to do with it — but I am always waiting to see if some weather-worthy story might pop up at the last minute.

Keeping that in mind, you can feel my frustration when a major winter storm is either going to happen or will miss us and it is occurring just as I write this! Will the storm pan out as forecasted? Will it be a flop? Or will it end up being worse than anticipated? These are the things I wish I knew. Oh, sure, you are probably saying I should just rewrite the article Monday morning, but like most of you, I have a couple of jobs, and one of them is a teacher, so I have very little time before school starts to update anything — and the time I have goes into finishing the weather forecast for the upcoming week.

As I sat at my lonely writer’s desk (listening to Harry Chapin) and trying to decide what to write about, I couldn’t help thinking about the conversations I overheard while watching my son’s hockey game. While some of the comments were about the possible storm, most were about the cold weather and just how different it was compared to last year. So, instead of doing the article I was originally going to do, which was to be about when we should normally expect to see the snow disappear from southern and central Manitoba (you’ll have to wait until next week for that info), I am going to take a look back at last March and hopefully put into perspective just how amazing a month it was.

Unheard of

March 2012 started off much like any other March. We saw fairly cold temperatures, with daytime highs on the 3rd and 4th only making it into around -15 C for highs and overnight lows fell into the -25 C range. Over the next week highs struggled to make it to the freezing mark, while overnight lows continued on the cold side. While the start of the month was cold, snow cover was light that year and talk around the water coolers was just how quickly spring would make an appearance because of very little snow.

Starting March 10, the answer to that question was “very quickly!” Temperatures across all regions began to soar as a large ridge of high pressure developed over the central U.S. By March 11, highs were in the +10 to +13 C range, while overnight lows were still fairly cool because the snow pack had yet to fully melt. By March 15 the snow pack was basically gone, and under the influence of high pressure temperatures began to soar to new record highs. From March 16 through 23 the temperature across most regions of southern Manitoba never fell below 0°.

The warmest days occurred on March 18 and 19, when daytime highs topped out in the low to mid-20s, which absolutely shattered the previously recorded highs. In fact, on March 19 the overnight low was a balmy 14 C, which itself broke several of the previous daytime high records of around 13 C set back in 1938! I haven’t gone through all of the records for southern Manitoba, but I am pretty sure this is one of the few, if only, times an overnight low has beaten a daytime high record — it’s just unheard of!

Temperatures cooled down a little bit toward the end of the month, but with the open waterways, the warmed ground and the lack of snow cover, temperatures once again soared, with the 31st coming close to or breaking the record high for the day, as the mercury climbed back towards the 20 C mark.

All I can think is, what a difference a year can make! This year we have a lot more snow. Just check out this week’s maps, which show last year’s snow cover compared to this year’s. That alone helps to keep us cold. Add to this that we just happened to move into a two-week-long cold snap and it spells a possible late start to spring. Just how late? You’ll have to wait until next week!

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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