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The days are growing longer, the average high temperature continues to climb, one thing is certain…Spring is near! The most asked question to anyone on the Weather Watch 12 team right now is, “Is Spring almost here?” The easy answer is yes, Spring officially begins on March 20. The tough question is when will the weather finally feel like Spring?
In today’s blog we will go over the March forecast and look at some of the highlights that I forsee for the month, and also the general temperature and precipitation trends.
Let’s start by looking at the hard numbers for an average March in Milwaukee.
- March 1 Average high: 37 low: 23
- March 31 Average high: 48 low: 32
- Average March Snowfall: 7.4″
- Average Precipitation: 2.59″
If you are new to the blog then you missed the long range forecasts that I made for January and February. The forecast made in advance of both of these months was overall very good. Here is a quick piece of the February forecast that was posted in the blog on January 26.
For this forecast I do think a storm will form over the Midwest in the Feb. 7-9 timeframe and likely bring snow to many areas. If enough warm air is pulled in, a mix or rain could occur. This will be one of potentially two major storms we see during February, and could be the biggest snow maker of the month for parts of our area. This potentially large storm could impact the region through the 10-11 as a quick shot of arctic air is drawn in on the backside of the storm.
This was the biggest success of the February forecast calling for likely the biggest snow for the month to occur with this storm and on the exact dates. Milwaukee’s snow total from this storm was 8.8″…easily the biggest of the month. So what are my long range forecasts based on? A weather pattern theory called the LRC.
Making long range forecasts is always tricky and never perfect, but a weather pattern theory known as the LRC allows for accurate long range weather forecasts to be made. LRC stands for Lezak’s Recurring Cycle.
I have been very excited to introduce this theory to viewers here in Southeast Wisconsin. I first learned about the theory 4 years ago while working in Kansas City. Here is what the theory states:
- A unique weather pattern sets up every year between October 1st and November 10th
- The weather pattern cycles, repeats, and continues through winter, spring and into summer. Identifying the cycle length helps tremendously when making long range weather predictions.
- Long term long-wave troughs and ridges become established and also repeat at regular times within the cycle. These dominant repeating features are a clue to where storm systems will reach peak strength, and where they will be their weakest.
- The LRC is a winter-long pattern! There is a pattern! It isn’t just one long-wave trough, storm system, or ridge. It is a sequence of troughs and ridges that are cycling across the Northern Hemisphere.
To put this in very simple terms, the weather pattern that occurs in October and November repeats thru the Winter, Spring, and into the Summer. The cycle length will vary each year. Determining the cycle length each Fall really holds the key in using the LRC to forecast into the future. A very good idea of the cycle length is usually determined anywhere from late November thru December. Once the pattern goes thru its second cycle a period of days can be placed on the cycle length. As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, the cycle length this year is about 60-62 days.
This brings us to the what lies ahead for the month of March. For this forecast I will breakdown the month into two halves highlighting trends in temperatures and precipitation. Also, give the timing of possible storms during the month.
Let’s start by looking back to the month of January, since this month’s overall pattern should match up closely with what we see in March. During the month there was really only one big storm for Southeast Wisconsin. This occurred on January 7-8 when what I’ll call a ‘hybrid clipper’ dove into the Midwest. This storm had a long duration of northeast winds…so what would have been a 2″-3″ snow, quickly turned into a snow of over 7″.
Below is the 500mb archived map of what this level of the atmosphere looked like that day. Notice the big upper level low over Iowa. The question is now how will this part of the pattern look when it comes back in March?
The month should get off to a cool start with high temperatures generally between 30-35 degrees for the first several days. Depending on nighttime lows the first few days may be a little bit below average temperature-wise. Closer to the end of the first week highs may be around 40.
The biggest storms during the first week of March should stay closer to the Gulf Coast and also the East Coast. Another decent snow is possible for parts of the mid-Atlantic or Northeast in the first week. For Southeast Wisconsin the most active part of the first half of March should occur between March 7-12. If we are going to see a snow of 3″ or more or see some rain/sleet around it would be in this time window. Remember…we are on roughly a 60-62 day cycle and the upper low from around January 7-8 should repeat in some fashion during the second week of March.
Once we get toward March 13-15 I believe a drier and slightly warmer part of the pattern will begin. The first half of the month will likely see average or slightly below average temperatures.
Back in November and again in January around the 17-19 there was a storm that stayed south of Wisconsin and hit areas from the Tennessee Valley to the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. Another potentially wet storm should stay south of Wisconsin and pay a visit to some of these same areas that have had a very wet winter. Around Southeast Wisconsin the early part of this period should bring fairly quiet weather, with mainly above average temperatures. This means highs should be in the upper 30s to 40s.
March will likely come in like a lamb…but could it exit like a lion? Let’s look back to late January to help us answer this question. Below is the 500mb archived map from January 25. This shows a very large upper low over the Midwest and western Great Lakes. This storm produced 0.26″ of precipitation in Milwaukee…but 60-62 days prior to January 25…this storm produced over 1.30″ of rain in November!
The previous two times through the cycle this part of the pattern has produced precipitation in Southeast Wisconsin. I believe that a potential ‘bigger’ storm will impact the region around March 26-30. By this time the average high is in the upper 40s…so rain, a mix, or snow could all be associated with this storm. The month will then end with below average temperatures.
Overall, the most exciting weather once again this month will likely reside from the South to the Southeast and then into the East.
Please keep in mind as we get closer to Spring the jet stream…which helps to guide systems across the country and also separates warm and cold air will slowly begin its seasonal shift to the north. This will play a role in where this potential storm(s) travels, but overall the same general weather pattern will be repeating. With the jet stream lifting north and warmer air progressing northward, March will likely mean the nation’s first taste of severe weather this year!
For the month of March in Milwaukee I think temperatures will end up above average and precipitation near or below average. Barring any big lake effect snows, snowfall should be around average. There may be one major storm during the month…likely in one of the periods highlighted above.
Thank you for reading and make sure to post your questions and thoughts to our comments section of the blog!