A very unusual March heat wave is sweeping across the northern part of the country, and Vermont is next on its list.
Yesterday night I was looking at a weather map of the northern United States, and noticed something incredible - Chicago had recorded a high temperature of 81 degrees yesterday! This warm air mass, which will surpass the record warmth we already experienced earlier this month, will be over Vermont for the next few days. According to the National Weather Service, temperatures in the mid 70s are possible early next week Such temperatures are not unheard of in March, but a string of several days with record highs is very rare. Unless dramatic and unexpected change comes to the state’s weather in the last week of the month, we are certainly headed for the warmest March on record.
With such dramatically warm weather, some people are wondering if the event is linked with human-caused climate change. Because it is so difficult to pin any one weather event on changes in the climate, it’s not really possible to answer that question. However, it is possible to look at the more immediate causes of the heat wave. The National Weather Service has mentioned something several times in their forecast discussions which I find interesting. Apparently a semi-permanent summer high pressure area sometimes known as the Bermuda High has set up in the western Atlantic very early this year (normally this high pressure would be much further east in March). Clockwise flow around this large weather feature leads to southerly winds and warm temperatures in the eastern United States.
Interestingly, some areas of the country are experiencing very different weather. California is experiencing a series of heavy winter storms, with heavy rain as well as snow falling at lower elevations of the mountains than usual. California has been experiencing a dry winter so far, so these storms are very welcome.
Many are welcoming the warmth in Vermont, as well. I’ve been enjoying the warm weather, but I hope record heat does not continue into the summer. Temperatures 20 degrees above average are pleasant in March, but not as much so in July. Vermont’s animals and plants are also taking advantage of the early spring. Salamanders and garter snakes have emerged from hibernation at an earlier date than usual, lawns are starting to green up a bit, spring flowers are opening, and yesterday I found a silver maple in full bloom (see photo). At this point, a dumping of heavy snow seems unlikely this spring, so I’m guessing the flowers will stick around for a while. I even considered planting some cold-hardy plants in the garden... but I’m guessing the warm spring has also awakened the groundhog early.
Charlie Hohn is a recent graduate of the UVM Field Naturalist graduate program. He has been closely watching the weather ever since he was a child in southern California. Charlie will be posting occasional blog posts here about Addison County weather. He also maintains a blog about water at slowwatermovement.blogspot.com.