March winds. Ugh! March is a fickle month. It can be warm, it can be cold. We can see thunderstorms and highs approaching 80 one day (yes, three 80 degree days happened last year by this point), and the next day we have wind chills in the 20s with snow showers—maybe even a blizzard!
No doubt the month of March has its mood swings. However, the most noticeable and consistent weather factor in March seems to be the strong winds. Every other day it seems that we as forecasters are calling for a “breezy/gusty/windy” day in the region…..okay, so what gives? Why the heck does March seem so windy compared to other months out of the year?
Well March is a transition month—obviously. We are heading out of the cold short days of winter into the longer and much warmer days of spring and summer. Cold air is situated north while warm air is trying to approach from the south.
Temperatures during the month of March are more extreme over shorter distances PLUS we have the heat of the sun finally at an angle that can actually warm up the surface quicker.
With the sun heating up the Earth’s surface, pockets of warm air form. These pockets of warm air start moving towards the cold dense air that is still hanging out, leftover from the winter months. The difference in the air mass temperatures (between the warm air and cold air) create differing pressures, which in turn create winds.
- The greater the difference in the high and low pressures, the stronger the force of the winds. Also, the distance between an area of high pressure and an area of low pressure will also determine the speed of the moving air. This is how we are set up for Thursday March 14th: An area of high pressure is hanging out over the Mississippi Valley while low pressure sets up shop in Eastern Canada. Winds flow around an area of high pressure clockwise while winds around low pressure move counter-clockwise. Considering these two pressure are pretty close together, combined they cause a tight pressure gradient an allow a pretty fast northwest wind to flow right into the Mid-Atlantic.
- For Friday, the high pressure will float to the southeast, into the Gulf of Mexico and the low will move to the east across Canada and track across the upper Great Lakes. The distance between these two pressures becomes farther apart. Still expecting a breezy day for your Friday but this time winds will be coming from the southwest from the ridge of high pressure along the Gulf.
As we continue through this erratic month of March, the Earth will continue it's rotation to give us more sunshine in the Northern Hemisphere. This will moderate our temperatures, sending the cold air back to the north as we head into April which in turn will finally create less of these breezy, windy, gusty days we experience in the month of March.