March 22, 2009 in Idaho Voices

Calendar may say spring, but weather will remain cool

Michelle Boss
 

Spring is officially here according to the calendar, but we are all aware of how often Mother Nature tends to ignore such details. This month’s cold streak continues with average temperatures now about seven degrees below normal. Though average highs are in the lower 50s, as of Wednesday neither Spokane nor Coeur d’Alene had seen temperatures that warm yet. Spokane continues to hold on to third place in regard to its snowiest winters on record, with just over 89 inches of snow for the season. Coeur d’Alene, with 136.1 inches, trails in second place behind its record winter of 2007-’08.

For those who are already looking ahead to the warmer temperatures of the new season and the chance to get the garden going this year, you might want to take a hint from last year. La Niña conditions, while weakening and expected to dissipate by July, point to below average temperatures across our part of the country for the next several months.

While folks in the Midwest often turn their attention to severe thunderstorms when the spring season arrives, our peak thunderstorm activity doesn’t arrive until June. We have already had several instances, however, of thunder accompanying snow and some pretty impressive nonthunderstorm wind gusts. Last Sunday, 66 mph winds were measured not far from Spokane International Airport, and 68 mph winds were measured near Warden, Wash., in Grant County. The high winds resulted in power outages across several areas. Because of the nature of our recent storms, we have seen snowflakes replaced by graupel or snow pellets, which look like a cascade of miniature snowballs. Fortunately, unlike hail, graupel is soft, and though it may come down fiercely, it causes no damage.

As we coast through the last third of the month I decided to do a little research into the saying that March “comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” The phrase has appeared in literature as early as the 1600s. Though we often think of spring weather as rather volatile, the saying apparently has its origins in astronomy and with the constellations Leo, the lion, and Aries, the ram or “lamb.” I am not much into stargazing myself, but Jack Horkheimer, the executive director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium, had this commentary:

“So perhaps long ago someone tied this all together noticing that on the first day of March, Leo the lion was just rising up into the heavens whereas at the end of March, Aries the ram was leaving them. And thus decided to poetically link both of them to the weather.”

Michelle Boss can be reached at weatherboss@comcast.net.


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