MARSHALL - It's March 21st on the calendar, so why does it feel like January 21st?
Spring officially arrived Wednesday, but as we have learned, you can't judge a season - especially spring - by the pages of a calendar.
A year ago at this time, Minnesotans were spoiled in March by April-like temperatures in the 60s, 70s and even 80s in some areas. Winter gear was ditched for shorts and T-shirts, flowers bloomed, and both lakes and golf courses opened. This year, however, has provided us a more Minnesota-like extreme - cold, arctic temps and snowstorms.
March is always an unpredictable month when it comes to the weather. Aside from the fact that most years one can expect a blizzard during one of the state high school tournaments, March weather is a crapshoot. And this year has proven to be no different.
"We're stuck in a cold, northwest flow pattern," said Brad Adams, a hydrometeorological technician with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D. "Typically by the time we get to late March we get a lot of southernly flow across the Northern Plains, but right now, that's not happening. The upper-air pattern across the northern part of the United States is still coming out of the northwest - from a source of cold air where there is significant snowpack in Canada."
Adams said northern air flows and usually followed by a southerly air flow, but, unlike last March, that flow hasn't come yet.
"We just not getting that return flow," he said. "We're kind of in a persistent upper-air pattern of northwest flow, and until that changes, we'll definitely stay below normal, probably for the next week."
Adams said things will likely turn around by the end of the month or early April, and temperatures will soar into the 60s and 70s. He said weather patterns are cyclical, but because of the attention now given to global warming, these extremes are scrutinized more.
"It varies from year to year; last year we were playing golf in shorts in March," he said. "It varies from year to year, decade to decade. It's certainly getting more focused than it was 20, 30 years ago."
Fortunately, Adams said, the spike in temperatures will not result in major flooding since there isn't a great amount of snowpack in the region.
"We're in a pretty good situation there," Adams said. "There is some snowpack your way and to the west of you, but by and large, we don't have that deep snowpack that can lead to flooding issues."
Adams said the flood outlook carries a 30 percent chance of major flooding potential this fall in southwest Minnesota.
After a brisk start to today (temperatures were expected to fall below zero after midnight Thursday) and a chilly overnight temperature of 13 degrees, highs are expected to hit the freezing mark (32 degrees) by Friday with lows in the 20s. If you're looking for temperatures in the 40s, you'll have to wait until next Thursday when warmer air seeps into the region.