What’s so lion-like about March?

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What’s so lion-like about March?
March in Madison
March in Madison by beautifulcataya

The famous adage that March weather comes “In like a lion, out like a lamb” suggesting that the first part of the month respects its pedigree and is winterlike while the latter part foreshadows the promise of spring and summer. Is this really true in southern Wisconsin?

As it turns out, the month with the greatest difference between the all-time warmest and coldest days is March. The record coldest March day in Madison’s history occurred on March 1, 1962 when the temperature dipped to -29°F. That same day, the maximum temperature reached only 3°F (a remarkable 32° temperature increase over the course of the day!). The day with the all-time lowest maximum temperature in March occurred on March 2, 1943 when the temperature climbed to only 1°F. On the other side of the spectrum, the all-time warmest March day in Madison (82°F) has occurred twice; March 29, 1986 and March 31, 1981. The highest daily minimum March temperature in Madison occurred on March 26, 2007 (59°F for a low with a high of 79°F!). The difference between all-time highs and lows of 111°F in March far exceeds the difference for any other month with April coming closest at 94°F difference (all-time low of 0°F and high of 94°F). A similar set of records exist for Milwaukee where this difference in March is 92°F with December finishing second at 86°F. Thus, with all the cold records occurring at the beginning of the month and all the warm records occurring at the end, it certainly appears that the old proverb is true for southern Wisconsin.

Steven A. Ackerman and Jonathan Martin are professors in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at UW-Madison, are guests on the Larry Meiller‘s WHA-AM radio show the last Monday of each month at 11:45 a.m.