Friday March 01, 2013 | 06:08 AM
Posted by David Epstein

For the first time in many days there are not winter weather warnings in New England.  Even though we will have a lot of clouds today, you can still see some breaks of sun.  There is the risk of a snow or rain shower from time to time.   Temperatures will be in the upper 30s today with a bit more melting of the deep snowpack.  All told, I would say March is entering more like a lamb this year.

I'll be updating my weather forecasts on Twitter at @growingwisdom please follow me there.

Since March does begin today I thought it would be fun to look at some of the weather statistics we know about for the 3rd month of the year. March means big changes and two of the biggest occur with light and temperature. There may be some forecasting errors in March, but I do know that we will gain a lot of light. In southern Maine on March 1st the sun sets at 5:30; on the 31st it sets at 7:09.

Of course, 1 hour of that afternoon increase is due to daylight saving time, which starts on Sunday the 10th. If you are a morning person like me you won’t like the sunrises being back to after 7a.m. for a few days. We will have to wait until the end of the month to have our sunrises back to around 6:30. All told, we gain just about 90 minutes of daylight this month and, after the 17th, the nights will once again be  shorter than the days.

Many years have snow in March and many others don’t. In 1956  there was nearly 40 inches of snow in Portland.  In other years there has been a trace of snow.  In ski country March can bring some of the biggest storms of the entire year.
 
Averages are basically meaningless for March. Snowfall is generally very low, or very high. The pattern would seem to favor some snow in March this year. Although there is snow on the ground across the entire state today, by the end of the month, 75% of the time, the ground is bare in Portland and other towns along the coast..
 
Along with the added daylight comes an increase in temperature. At the start of the month many of our daytime highs remain in the 30s, but by the end of the month we can see a day or two in the 
the 50s and even 60s. A warm March can bring a day that will feel more like summer than early spring.  Sea breezes become common in March.  Inland areas can see high temperatures 
as much as 10 degrees warmer than the coast.  
 
The month can also be cold, with temperatures in the single numbers and teens
at night not being uncommon in years past. We don’t tend to go below zero in March, especially in the past several decades.
 
Looking at the jet stream configuration for the first half of March, temperatures are going to be colder than you would expect. I even see some signs that cold air will penetrate quite far south in the next couple weeks, perhaps bringing record cold in some places south of the Mason-Dixon line.
Cloud and precipitation of some kind is a good bet in March. About half the time it is cloudy and about half of the days will have some precipitation. One of the reasons the month is somewhat unsettled is that the jet stream is starting to move north and the contrast between winter and spring brings with it plenty of weather. More generally, moisture levels as a whole start to increase in March. We don’t see many, if any, arctic outbreaks of air and this means that the air inside our homes won’t be quite as dry as the colder months of January and February
 
Depending on how aggressive you want to be in the garden, March does begin planting season. 
There is often a huge difference between southern York county and Augusta in terms of when you can plant. Fava beans, peas, lettuce, radish, carrots, and other cold weather crops can be planted by the end of the month. Inside, you can start many of your seedlings this month. I generally start my tomatoes in the first couple of weeks of March, which is about 8 weeks before they will go into the ground. Early this month is also the time to prune your blueberry bushes. In this week’s video I show you how to keep your blueberry bushes healthy and yielding big, juicy berries.
 

I'll be updating my weather forecasts on Twitter at @growingwisdom please follow me there.

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About the Author

David Epstein has been a meteorologist for more than 25 years. He spent 16 years in Boston and currently freelances at WGME13 in Portland.

In 2006, David founded GrowingWisdom.com, a business producing educational and marketing videos for the green industry. He currently is a professor at Framingham State College, teaches Jan Plan at Colby College and owns Bloomscapes Inc., a landscape design business.

David authored "Gardens Of New England" and his work has been published in Grolier's Science Annual for 10 years. He lives in South Natick, Mass., and has a summer home in Harpswell.

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