The Ugly Weeks

The first few weeks of March in the Temperate Zone of the Northern Hemisphere are generally less than pleasant.  Chilly waves of winter still drop in from the north while humid air flows up from the south.  This combination, stirred by Pacific storms that ride in from the west, leads to raw, cloudy days with cold rain or wet snow.

To make matters worse, this chilly precipitation falls on frozen soil, leading to muddy trails and backroads, swollen streams and widespread flooding.  While lawns may begin to green and flowering bulb plants add some color to the woodlands and flower beds, damp leaf litter and forest debris still coat much of the ground.  The trees and shrubs are, for the most part, leafless and their lack of transpiration only adds to the runoff that triggers mudslides and flooded landscapes.

Of course, this ugly, damp weather provides ideal feeding grounds for migrant waterfowl and shorebirds and fuels the tide of spring that will gain traction later in the month.  As the March sun climbs higher in the southern sky, the soil will thaw, leaves will unfurl, insects will reclaim the air and summer songbirds will arrive from the south.  By then, the bleak weather of early March will retreat to the north and waves of summer-like warmth will invade the Heartland, igniting the first potent thunderstorms of spring.