March Weather 2020: In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb?

The Almanac’s Weather Forecast for March

March 8, 2020
Lion in March

Let’s talk about the weather for March 2020. According to weather folklore, if March “comes in like a lion, it goes out like a lamb.” Let’s see what wild March has in store this year.

Because March is designated as “Optimism Month,” I’d like to be able to tell you that all of my forecasts will turn out perfectly—but it is also “Ethics Month,” so I guess I can’t do that. 

Weather at the Start of March

We expect cooler than average conditions in most of the United States and Canada. Certainly, this is true in parts of the central and southern United States.

Take heart: It will still be warmer than February, and the rising temperatures are a sure sign that we are moving toward summer.

But before we get there, winter still has some punch left, with mid-March snowstorms forecast for the Northeast, upper Midwest, High Plains, and Alaska, making St. Patrick’s Day more white than green. 

In late March, watch for snowstorms in Quebec and in the Lower Lakes, Heartland, and Intermountain regions of the States.

Still, we can optimistically see good things coming up by St. Patrick’s Day and the first day of spring (vernal equinox), which March ushers in on the 17th and 19th, respectively.

Of course, before mid-spring arrives, there is a real red-letter day on the 2nd—Dr. Seuss’s birthday—so please forgive me if I wax a little poetic: 

I do not like to see March snow,
I do not like the wind to blow,
I like it when the cold does go,
I tell you this so you will know.
Sometimes the cold will leave you freezin’,
And sometimes it will leave you sneezin’.
Sometimes the weather has no reason,
Unless, of course, we change the season.

I hope I don’t give you the blues,
I think you will see all the clues,
And know that this is not a ruse,
But simply a tribute to Dr. Seuss.

Weather Mid-March

The spring equinox arrives on March 19 this year. (It’s the earliest spring of our lives!)

And we celebrate the most important holiday of all on March 23—World Meteorological Day, of course! But I digress …

By mid-March, we can expect above-normal temperatures in the eastern two-thirds of the contiguous United States, near-normal ones in the Pacific Northwest, and conditions cooler than normal elsewhere from the High Plains westward. Alaska will have above-normal temperatures, with below-normal readings in Hawaii. 

Precipitation will be below normal in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic region, southern Florida, the eastern Great Lakes, the Heartland, the Pacific Northwest, and Hawaii, and near or above normal elsewhere. Expect lingering cold from Atlantic Canada westward into Quebec and also in the Prairies, with a quick transition to spring elsewhere across Canada.

Unfortunately, we’re anticipating near- to above-normal levels of severe weather activity early in the severe weather season, with the greatest activity in the Southeast and Ohio Valley in March and from Colorado to North Dakota in April. Stay safe out there!


Comes in Like a Lion, Goes Out Like a Lamb

Now back to this proverb. It looks as if “Comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb” will hold true this year in most regions. If you think about it, the proverb makes sense. March is a transitional month starting with winter, ending with spring. 

Where did this proverb come from?

It’s appeared over the centuries.  John Ray (1627–1705) was a naturalist who wrote, “March hack ham [hackande = annoying] comes in like a lion, goes out like a lamb.” This is published in the “Catalogue of English Proverbs” in 1670. The phrase “March came in like a lion” shows up in Ames Almanac in 1740.

A favorited theory (which fits the Almanac) is that the proverb is based on astronomy and the positions of the constellations. At the beginning of the year, we have Leo the Lion ( eastern horizon); by the end of March, it’s Aries the Ram (western horizon). 

There have also been religious associations: Jesus arrives as the sacrificial lamb at Easter, but will return as the Lion of Judah. Weather-wise, this means a false spring.

Of course, the Almanac has many other March proverbs in its archives. Here are a couple that have lasted the ages:

  • So many mists in March you see, So many frosts in May will be.
  • March comes in with adders’ heads and goes out with peacocks’ tails.

They aren’t quite as memorable as the lion and the lamb! 

Spring 2020 Forecast (March through June)

Look ahead! Check out the Full Spring Forecast from The Old Farmer’s Almanac.

About This Blog

Mike Steinberg is Senior Vice President for Special Initiatives at AccuWeather Inc in State College, Pennsylvania. He is also a member of the National Weather Association and the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society.