March was colder here than February. Here’s why.

Image courtesy of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CONTRIBUTED.

Combined ShapeCaption
Image courtesy of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. CONTRIBUTED.

April arrived with Mother Nature ending the first day with her own cruel April Fools joke.

Easter Sunday for most started out with sunshine, and while it was a bit cool, it was still a nice day. But many found the snow that arrived Sunday night to be a bitter pill to swallow. While snow on Easter isn’t terribly uncommon here in Ohio, the last two months of weather were quite unusual.

It has been a long winter here in southwest Ohio, and the month of March just added insult to injury.

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Of course, it is all about perspective. The previous two winters in Ohio were quite mild, so the fact that the winter of 2017-2018 seemed horrible is just relative. But if you thought this past month — and so far, the beginning of April — seemed like we’ve gone deeper into winter – you’d be correct.

According to data from the National Weather Service, the average temperature in March was nearly a half-degree colder than the average temperature in February. While that may not seem like much, that is actually quite amazing. The average high temperature by the end of March is 56 degrees for Dayton. However, we only had 8 days in March where the temperature reached or topped the normal daily high.

You may also be surprised to learn that we had more snow in the Miami Valley in the month of March than we had in February. While this isn’t terribly unusual since March can bring about more moisture-laden storm systems, it is still making winter feel like it is dragging along.

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Dayton recorded 2.6 inches of snow in the month of February and doubled that with 5.8 inches measured in the month of March. Most of the snow in March fell the first two days of spring. Even more snow has opened up the month of April, and more still is possible this week.

The reason for the cold in the month of March has been a blocking area of high pressure over Greenland forcing the polar jet-stream to dive farther south across the eastern half of the United States. This is part of what is called a “negative arctic oscillation.”

This is also the reason New England has experienced several massive storm systems called “Nor’easters” multiple times within a span of just two weeks during March. Until the massive high-pressure system over Greenland breaks down, it is likely temperatures will remain below average into the first 10 days of April – at least.

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But if you are thinking that the recent cold weather may dispel climate change, think again. It is very likely the lack of arctic sea ice may be contributing to the more intense colder outbreaks over the last several years, including the “polar vortex” spells several years ago.

A study from Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization, says there is clear scientific evidence that the Arctic has been warming faster than the rest of the planet. That warming is reducing the amount of Arctic sea ice, allowing more heat to escape from the ocean.

The scientists think that the ocean energy that is being released is causing a weakening of the polar vortex winds over the Arctic, which normally keep cold air centered over the polar region. That weakening is then allowing cold polar air to slip southward more often and later into the seasons.

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Despite the cold start to spring, the Climate Prediction Center maintains that the season as a while should wind up being above average temperature-wise across the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

That certainly looks plausible, but we have a long way to go at the moment.

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