ALPENA - March came in like a lion, but did not go out like a lamb. With temperatures consistantly nine to 12 degrees below normal, it was the third coldest March in the last 30 years.
Even though temperatures were frigid, only one record low temperature was recorded on March 6, with the mercury registering at negative 19 degrees at Alpena County Regional Airport, recorded by the National Weather Service. The average temperature was 19.7 degrees, nine degrees below the normal average.
"There were 18 days below the 10 degree mark, and 10 of those days were at or below zero degrees," National Weather Service meteoroligst Dave Lawrence said. "On a happier note, we did reach the 50 degree mark twice during March. Usually the months of March and April swing from one side of the temperature scale to the other. It's common for this time of year."
Total snowfall this year is down, mostly because of the effects of the polar vortex pushing the jet stream further south than normal. This led to cold temperatures, and much less snowfall. The other contributing factor in keeping accumulation low was the ice cover on the Great Lakes. Total snowfall so far this winter has been 62.8 inches so far, just over 15 inches below the normal seasonal average.
"Most of the snow came from continuous lake effect snowfall," Lawrence said. "Alpena didn't experience as much snow because of its distance from Lake Michigan, and the low pressure system which suppressed a lot of our storms to the south. The ice cover on the lakes shut down show production completely. Once the lakes freeze over, it shuts completely off."
Lawrence said the ice cover will play well into the spring weather, keeping water temperatures down.
"The ice cover this year was near record setting," he said. "It will be interesting to look at how long it will take to melt."
Two years ago, March was one of the warmest ever, with temperatures around nine to 12 degrees above normal.
"We had one day where it was 80 degrees in March (in 2012)," Lawrence said. "We went from having one of the warmest Marchs on record, to having one of the coldest in just two years. That just shows how much the temperatures can very in spring every year."
The temperatures were by far the most noticeable difference in weather, but because of the low temperatures the snow that fell never melted.
"Believe it or not, March could have been worse, but with only a handful of big snowstorms coming through the snowfall levels are still below average," Lawrence said.
According to Lawrence, things are looking better for spring, especially temperature wise.
"It's still expected to be cooler than normal this spring, but there will be a few warm stretches," he said. "Temperatures are trending upward, and the average highs are warming quickly."
Unfortunately, the upward trend will not yet be seen until near the weekend, after another storm system goes through.
"Next week the weather looks pretty active as we have another storm pattern coming through," Lawrence said. "Midweek should be relatively nice, with some sunshine and a bit of cloud cover, but Thursday through Saturday another messy winter storm will be on its way, bringing snow, freezing rain and sleet. After that, it looks like temperatures continue to be on a slow rise throughout April."
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.