Q What's so special about March?

A The famous proverb concerning March weather is "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 minus-29. That same day, the high temperature reached only 3 degrees, a remarkable 32-degree increase over the course of the day.

The day with the all-time lowest high temperature in March occurred on March 2, 1943, when the temperature climbed to only 1 degree. On the other side of the spectrum, the all-time warmest March day in Madison - 82 degrees - has happened twice; March 29, 1986, and March 31, 1981.

The highest daily low March temperature in Madison occurred on March 26, 2007: 59 degrees for a low with a high of 79 degrees. The difference between all-time highs and lows of 111 degrees in March far exceeds the difference for any other month with April coming closest with a 94-degree difference.

A similar set of records exist for Milwaukee; the difference in March is 92 degrees, with December finishing second at 86 degrees.

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, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA Radio (970 AM) the last Monday of each month at 11:45 a.m.

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