Spring starts, but winter expected to make gradual exit from region

MABEL POLLOCK looks back to her dad as she splashes through a puddle on Wilson Street in Kingsford. Warmer temperatures have the snowpack melting throughout the region. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

IRON MOUNTAIN — Today marks the first day of spring, advancing what looks to be a gradual thaw after the snowiest February on record in the Iron Mountain-Kingsford area.

The National Weather Service expects an average spring for the Upper Peninsula, with equal chances of above or below normal temperatures and precipitation through the end of June. February’s snow total at the Iron Mountain-Kingsford Wastewater Treatment Plant observer site was a record 43.7 inches.

Locally, high temperatures will be in the 40s or slightly cooler before flirting with the 50s this weekend, forecasters say. But during the rest of March and the first week of April, highs are expected to stay in the 40s with overnight lows in the 20s.

Today’s vernal equinox — when day and night are roughly the same length across the globe — arrives at 4:58 p.m. Central time in the Northern Hemisphere.

It’s particularly special because a full moon also occurs today. The last time the full moon and spring equinox occurred on the same day was March 20, 1981, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac.

THE WARMING TEMPERATURES this weekend could bring the first major wave of early migratory birds to the region, like these mallard ducks. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

Not only that, it’s a supermoon, which means the moon is at or near its closest approach to Earth. Of the possible 12 or 13 full moons each year, usually only three or four are classified as supermoons, which appear brighter and bigger than normal.

Tonight’s moon, which will become full at 8:43 p.m., will be the third and final supermoon of 2019. The next supermoon isn’t set to rise until Feb. 9, 2020.

The weekend warmup also could bring the first major wave of migrating birds into the region, said Ryan Brady, a conservation biologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources who tracks seasonal bird movement in the state.

The higher temperatures should be accompanied by a southwest wind pattern that could carry early arrivals such as red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and sandhill cranes into the Upper Peninsula and far northern Wisconsin, said Brady, who is in Ashland, Wis. These birds already have advanced as far north as the Green Bay area, Brady said. The weekend could even see some turkey vultures return to the region.

While ice remains on northern lakes, the first waterfowl species also are moving north, Brady said. Canada geese, common mergansers and hooded mergansers can be expected as local lakes develop more open water.

The seasonal warmup this spring means flood risks are particularly high in the central United States, extending to the Upper Midwest, according to weather agencies. Flooding was reported in areas across Wisconsin earlier this week, displacing hundreds of people, but forecasters were hopeful that drier weather would give cresting rivers and streams a chance to recede.

At this point, spring storms appear more likely to occur over the southern half of the nation, said AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok.

“Since El Nino is likely to persist through the spring and not weaken like it usually does this time of the year, the main storm track may remain south of the northern tier states,” he said.