Paul is a full-time fifth-grade teacher at an elementary school in Fairfield ... Paul is a New York Emmy award winner (2007), five-time Emmy nominee, and four-time winner of the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcasters' Association award for 'Best Weathercast' in Connecticut (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) ... The local weather journal is a two-time winner of the Communicator Award of Distinction (2012 & 2013) ... Paul was inducted into the Housatonic Community College Hall of Fame and received the Distinguished Alumni Award (2012) ... Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulPiorek ...

Friday, February 28, 2014

Beware the Month of March

Today officially marks the last day of meteorological Winter. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean that Winter ends at the stroke of midnight. There is a difference between meteorological Winter and astronomical Winter. Astronomical Winter began on December 21 when the Sun was the farthest from the Earth in the Northern Hemisphere. Meteorological Winter, on the other hand, is simply the period of the year when the Northern Hemisphere is the coldest. That lasts from December 1 through the end of February.

Tomorrow is the first day of March, and although it will feel good to turn the calendar page, the month is anything but serene. March is a transition month as Winter slowly yields to Spring. As for our weather, just about anything goes during the month. The best example of the unpredictable nature of March weather is illustrated on the 13th of the month. That's the date when the mercury reached 84 degrees in 1990, establishing records for the season, month, and date.

Just three years later, though, on the same date, the so-called Storm of the Century dumped over a foot of snow to the region, making it the second snowiest date on record for March at the time. Winds gusted over 40 miles an hour and wind chills were at or below zero. Most of the eastern third of the nation was affected by the massive storm, which stretched from Maine to Florida, including hurricane force winds, tornadoes, strong thunderstorms, and blizzard conditions.

And, four years ago, on March 13, 2010, we experienced an unforgettable Nor'easter which brought flooding rains, damaging winds, massive power outages, and two local fatalities. Peak wind gusts reached 50 to 60 miles an hour in most communities, resulting in downed trees and power lines. Many local roads were impassable, and rainfall rates of up to one-half inch per hour were reported across southwestern Connecticut.


So, what can we expect in March? Basically, anything and everything. Based on local climatology, the normal average daily temperature climbs eight degrees from 36 to 44. The average high temperature increases from 43 degrees at the start of March to 52 degrees by the last day of the month. The record high temperature is 84 degrees set on March 13, 1990, while the record low is four degrees established on March 19, 1967.

As far as precipitation is concerned, the average monthly total is 4.15 inches, making it the wettest month of the year. The wettest March on record occurred in 2010 when several storms brought 10.19" of rain, breaking the previous mark of 9.40" in 1953. The March 13, 2010, storm delivered 3.31" of rain. You may even recall the second wettest March day on record when 3.59 inches of rain fell on March 2, 2007. The average monthly snowfall is 4.3 inches, but there have been some memorable snowstorms. As late as March 22 nearly a foot of snow (11.1") fell in 1967.

The amount of daylight continues to grow during March, but this year we Spring ahead to Daylight Saving Time on Sunday, March 9, so the evening hours will be much brighter than usual. Sunrise on March 1 happens at 6:27, and by the end of the month it will rise at 6:37, due in so small part to the start of DST. Believe it or not, the Sun sets at 5:41 this evening, but by March 31 it will set at 7:17. Personally, it will feel odd to have brighter evenings so early in the year. Not that I mind, of course.

The Vernal Equinox is less than three weeks away. That's the when the direct rays of the Sun are above the Equator, technically marking "equal day and equal night" over the face of the Earth. We'll enjoy about 12 hours of daylight on the first day of Spring, and the amount of daylight will continue to increase through late June.