Skilling: March sunnier and drier than normal; April to bring more daylight


All in all, March 2021, which ends tonight at midnight—is to end as it began–quietly! This month goes down in the books having exhibited “lamb-like” meteorological behavior for both its open and close.

Hard to believe as it may be, we’ve made it a third of the way through the three month meteorological/climatological spring season. We head into the new month of April tomorrow, a month which will see another 77 minutes of daylight come onto the scene—that’s in addition to the 84 minutes of daylight we’ve picked up in March.

Daily March 2021 Chicago temp departures—77% of days this month have average AT OR ABOVE NORMAL

It’s been a sunnier, drier than normal March having logged 58% of its possible sun versus the “norm” of 49%. And for a second consecutive month, March will close having generated sub-par precip here in Chicago just as February did.

In fact, March’s 1.25″ of water equivalent precip to date is only 52% normal. February, despite all of its snow, managed a water equivalent of just 1.25″—70% of normal. That’s because February’s snow was drier and fluffier than normal. That’s a bit concerning since we depend on the widespread rain and precip production of spring season storm systems to charge our soils with moisture before the more scattered rains and high evaporation rates of summer which can deplete existing moisture supplies quickly.

Looking ahead to April, here’s the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) prediction of temp and precip trends across the Lower 48 and Canada.

While year to date precip has been running above normal to Chicago’s South and West, much of the Great Lakes drainage basin–that’s the area in which moisture from rain and snow drains into the Lakes—has recorded below normal precipitation. This has contributed to a drop in Great Lakes water levels from record levels. Lakes Michigan and Huron, treated as a single water body by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers–the agency which monitors lake levels—are down 12″ from a year ago. But they’re coming off record high lake levels and are still running an impressive 24″ above the long term late March average since 1918.

The outlook for April from the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC): Above normal temps and near normal precip.

Year to date precip for most of the Great Lakes region has been drier than normal

Longer range raw model forecasts, including those produced by the National Weather Service’s GEFS model and the European Centre’s EPS model agree on above normal temps–but each suggests sub-par precip.

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