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When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. Only one person takes climatology to a level like this. He even has a lifetime achievement award from the National Weather Service for his devotion to data and science. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found regularly right here on Take it away Steve!

Our Marches Are Getting Warmer

I went through Iowa's temperature records which goes back to 1873 to see if I could determine a trend for the month of March. Here is what I found.

The years from 1873-1899 saw the coolest Marches with a 27 year average of 32.0 degrees. The 1890's was the coolest decade of record with an average of 31.3 degrees.

There was a gradual rise in the temperatures from 1900-1939. The average temperature for 1920-1939 was 36.5 degrees with the 1930's being the warmest decade on record with an average of 36.8 degrees


Starting with the 1940's the cool down began. The average temperature for 1950-1969 was 33.1 degrees. From 1970 to the present, temperatures have been on the rise again. The average for the period 1980-2019 was 36.3 degrees which is 2.5 degrees warmer than the 1950-1979 period of record. The 1980's was the 2nd warmest decade with an average of 36.7 degrees. From 1990-2022 the average was 36.5 degrees or 2.7 degrees warmer. The average temperature for the last 3 years is 39.9 degrees.

Iowa's warmest March was 2012 with an average of 51.1 degrees and the coldest one was 1960 with an average of 20.7 degrees.

As you can see March's average temperature is gradually getting warmer.

It Looks Like Our Marches May Be Getting A Little Drier

I went through Iowa's precipitation records which also goes back to 1873 to see if I could determine a trend for the month of March. This is what I came up with.

The average precipitation for March from 1873-1879 was 2.08".

From 1873-1899 the average was 1.74".

From 1900-1939 the average was 1.71".

From 1940-1979 it was wetter with an average of 2.17".

The 40 year period 1960-1999 saw an average of 2.18".

From 2000-2019 the average dropped to 1.95" and 2000-2022 the average was 2.05".

The average for 2020-2022 jumped to 2.78".

There has been a slight decline in the precipitation since 2000 but maybe the 2020's will be a wetter decade, like it has started out.

The driest decade was the 1880's with a 1.45" average and the wettest decade was the 1970's with 2.41".

Robins And Snow

There is a bit of weather folklore that says "After the robin comes in spring, he'll get snow on his back three times before it stops". There is another version that says it is 5 times. I went through my records and found that the average number of times is 3.5 times or 3 to 4 times. I have seen it range from 1 time to 10 times. So far this year he has gotten snowed on 3 times.

Another Thursday, Another Storm

Our latest storm, once again was on a Thursday, the 12th. I recorded 0.43" of precipitation with a little sleet and 1.5" of snow along with winds gusting to 45 mph.

When it started to sleet and snow here around 9:30 p.m., I found the smaller earthworms and a large night crawler out in the backyard. There was also a slug on my back step. The temperature at the time was just 34 degrees. The soil temperature was 38 degrees at 2.25" depth and 40 degrees at 1.0". which explains the snow melting so quickly. Sounds like we may be coming out of another storm Thursday?

Our Snowiest Marches And The El Nino Southern Oscillation

I did some research to see what event we were having at the time of our top ten snowiest Marches. Was it a La Nina, El Nino or a La Nada? Three of them occurred during a La Nina and the other 7 occurred during the neutral phase or a La Nada.

1965 Was An Incredible March!

This week I will highlight March of 1965 which was cold and snowy. With an average temperature of 23.8 degrees it was the 3rd coldest on record up to this time and the 4th snowiest with 17.5".

There were 2 major storms during the month. The first one was on the 1st-2nd starting out as sleet and ice mostly across the south and central sections which soon changed to snow producing 6" to 10" with 1" to 3" across the south and east sections of the state.

The schools were closed in most sections, up to a week in N.W. Iowa. Travelers were stranded as strong N.W.'ly winds drifted the highways shut. A few more inches fell on the 3rd and 4th whipped by strong winds drifting the highways shut, once again delaying traffic.

If that was bad enough, the storm of the 17th-18th produced more paralyzing conditions over the north half or more of the state, which was the worst in many years, in some areas. The storm produced 4" to 12" of new snow that drifted to roof top levels, at times by the strongest winds of the month. Sioux City measured gusts to 60 mph and gusts to 70 mph were recorded in some other areas.

Thousands of travelers were stranded along highways, many taking refuge in farm houses, with as many as 40 being accommodated per home. Sixty snowbound travelers were housed overnight at one farm home. A lady from Crystal Lake was stranded in her car for 22 hours. At least 4 persons were hospitalized and 1 died from exposure.

The schools and most activities were cancelled for periods up to a week in northern districts. The blizzards took a heavy toll of pheasants with up to 90% being killed by the weather in some northern Iowa districts.

There were also other significant weather events during the month. There were thunderstorms with lightning losses on the 1st and the 16th; damaging winds mostly on the 17th along with rivers flooding in S.W. Iowa at the beginning of the month and locally elsewhere, often from ice jams. Frost remained in the ground throughout the month across most of the state, ranging anywhere from 3 to 5 feet deep.

Warm days in late February caused the Boyer River to flood from the 28th through Mar. 3rd driving about 300 families from their homes in the Missouri Valley area. Damage amounted to $662,100, mostly to homes. Flooding on the East Nishnabotna River drowned 52 head of cattle and 65 pigs on the 1st. About 100 families were evacuated at Charles City as the Cedar River crested at 21.8 feet, about 0.2 feet higher than the previous record in 1961. Several other areas reported flood losses but much colder weather on the 1st ended the flooding. It was quite a month! It also set the stage for the big flood on the Mississippi several weeks later. The pictures below from the Telegraph Herald were taken in Dubuque April of 1965 around the time of the crest there.

That's all I have for you in this edition. On the wild side of weather I'm Steve Gottschalk.


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