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The mistaken groundhog

Mother Nature must not have listened to Punxsutawney Phil, the Pennsylvania-based groundhog, when he predicted on Feb. 2 that spring would be early this year.

WQAD News Channel 8 meteorologist James Zahara said it’s been one of the coldest Marches on record, especially hard in comparison since last March was one of the warmest Marches on record.

“It didn’t seem that long ago when temperatures in March 2012 exceeded 60 degrees or better 21 times in the one month,” Zahara said. “What’s even more amazing is that on 13 of those days, the temperature reached 70 degrees or better, with six of those days topping out at 80 degrees or warmer! Wow!”

However, for people who like the cold weather and snow, March’s cold temperatures were a plus as the Quad Cities area, which includes Bureau County, reached around 250 percent of its average snowfall for March, with some areas seeing close to a foot of new snow, Zahara said.

In looking at a reason for the colder March temperatures, Zahara said the area has been affected by a weather phenomena called “The Greenland Block,” which acted like a stop sign and situated itself over Greenland. This action created a deep trough across the eastern United States sending cold, Canadian air southward. This is what the Quad Cities area was under through most of March, Zahara said.

Fortunately, the Greenland Block has broken, and spring warmth is not too far away, Zahara said. The National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center has released its new outlook from April to June, which shows Illinois having a small increased chance of above-average temperatures through June, as well as an increased chance of above-average precipitation for most of the Midwest.

If this trend is valid, then the above-average precipitation for this spring should help with low water levels on both the Great Lakes and Mississippi River as well as alleviate drought concerns currently going on in northwestern Illinois.

The bottom line is this trend is great news for the growing season, and the odds of repeating the drought from last year in Illinois has drastically dropped, Zahara said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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