In like a snow leopard?

The old adage about March weather is “In like a lion, out like a lamb.” Whether you use the climatological calendar on which spring begins on March 1 or the astronomical calendar on which spring begins on the equinox, March 20, it’s a month of transition. Wild swings in weather are expected in the mid-latitudes, where we live.

In central North Carolina, we are almost as likely to experience snow and ice storms through mid-March as warmth and thunderstorms. Our geographic location between the mountains and the Atlantic Ocean positions us perfectly for cold air damming events – when cold air from the north is trapped against the mountains and warm air from the ocean overruns it. Rain falling into the cold air near the surface freezes and creates icy situations.

We’re also in a good spot to experience coastal low-pressure systems running up our eastern shore and becoming nor’easters. Those tend to bring mixed precipitation events, too, if cold air is already in place or moves in quickly behind the storm.

It’s also possible in early March for the polar vortex to weaken enough to allow a blast of arctic air to shoot down this way. At this writing, it looks like that will be the case next week.

A cold front will cross the state Sunday, and the temperature will drop behind it. Any rain falling late Sunday night into early Monday morning may change over to or mix with snow. Accumulation shouldn’t be too much of a problem with milder temperatures in place this week and a rebound back into the 40s expected on Monday.

Cold air from the Arctic will pour into the eastern half of the nation behind the front and bring much cooler-than-normal temperatures to the region through most of next week. For reference, the 30-year average high temperature at RDU International Airport for today is 59 degrees. In contrast, the GFS forecast model is predicting our high temperatures will not surpass the 40s after the cold front passes on Sunday until the cold air finally retreats next Saturday.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have trust issues with forecasts that go beyond four or five days because the errors in the models compound quite a bit that far out. However, this cold snap has been pretty well forecast by some of the more trusted long-range prognosticators for the last couple of weeks. Now that the time period is getting closer, the models seem to be coming into agreement. I think this one will verify as truth.

So, this year, March will come in like a snow leopard, or an Arctic wolf. Pick your favorite cold climate predator. Only time will tell if it will go out like a lamb.

cpc map

The Climate Prediction Center’s 6-10 day temperature outlook map shows very good chances of below normal temperatures for most of the country next week.