By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 3/29/16 (Tue)
We’ve all heard the old wive’s tale that if March comes in like a lamb, it will go out like a lion and vice versa.
That’s often the case and there have been years where March has come in like a lamb and just when we think it is going to go out like a lamb, Whammo! we get hit with 10 inches of wet snow or blowing and drifting snow or something.
On the flipside, I don’t ever remember a time when March came in like a lion and went out like a lion.
This year seems to be different and even though we have one day remaining in March, the forecast is calling for mild enough conditions that would not warrant a blizzard, heavy rain, an ice storm, hurricane-force winds or weather phenomenon like that.
But there’s one day left and March always seems to be that month that delivers. Let’s just wait and see what happens tomorrow and if the forecast holds up, it would be a fluke for March to end like it began.
One of the other weather oddities we’ve had in March is lack of moisture.
Typically, March is that pivotal month that teeters between winter cold and spring-like conditions.
Many of us remember what happened in 1966 when the perfect storm of cold and warm occurred over the northern Great Plains, leaving in its wake one of the worst blizzards in North Dakota history.
But to not get widespread moisture, be it rain or snow in March, just seems a bit scary for the coming months.
Some old timers are suggesting this will be a drought year because we’ve had a mild winter and because we’ve gone through March with nothing more than melted snow from the rest of the winter.
When you think that March and June are supposed to be our wettest months, anybody in agriculture might be in for a rough ride if this trend continues.
We’ve praised El Nino all winter long because we’ve closed out one of our most mild winters in recent memory.
We mowed our lawns the second week of November, we wore shorts and tilled our gardens in early December, we purchased more windshield washer fluid than ever in January because the roads were normally slopping from that “long January thaw.” There were a number of days in February, traditionally our coldest month, where light jackets were adequate.
Then we go through March with numerous record highs and nearly the entire month with above average temperatures, much like it’s gone since November.
We can thank El Nino for that, the warm Pacific Ocean current that spreads across the nation, but causes plenty of weather destruction on both coasts.
You’d think that if this current is coming off the Pacific, it would bring plenty of moisture with it, but most often that heavy rain is stymied by the Rocky Mountains.
Our best chances of above average moisture comes from the Gulf of Mexico and as long as this El Nino current sticks around, it seems to be stronger than those gulf currents that hit us with southeast wind.
So these old timers might be on to something. They have their own reasoning for it such as the height of a muskrat hut or they consider what time of year a rabbit begins to turn the color of its fur, if it does at all.
So we might just be in for a dry summer, but let’s hope not. We don’t want monsoon rains like we’ve sometimes had in June, but we need enough to sustain field crops that nearly everyone in North Dakota has some part.
Looking ahead even further, numerous people have said that the winter following an El Nino winter is usually cold, harsh and nasty. We’ll see how that shakes out as well.
But some of you might recall an article in this newspaper last fall that suggested a mild winter, at least in western North Dakota, from the National Weather Service, Environment Canada and the Old Farmers Alamanac. The only thing that didn’t come through was the prediction of normal precipitatiion.
We’re about to go into April and dam and river levels are about the level we usually see them in July. That’s not a good sign for things to come.
Unless something changes soon, we might have a hot, dry summer, nothing like 1936, but stressful enough to put some crops and livestock in jeopardy.
But March isn’t quite done yet and it always seems to be that big surprise. So let’s see what happens tomorrow. If March does go out like a lion, it could change everything.