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What does it mean when someone says that March 'comes in like a lion, out like a lamb?'

The weather folklore has been around for almost 300 years but will it be proven true this year?
Credit: Virginia Zoo
African lion, Mramba, at the Virginia Zoo

MOLINE, Ill. — “March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb,” is a popular weather folklore saying that you may hear around this time of year.

The saying was first coined in Thomas Fuller's 1732 compendium “Gnomologia; Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British.”

There are some theories on how this saying came to be:

The first is astronomical. At the start of the month, the constellation Leo (a lion) rises in the west and, by the start of April, the constellation Aries (a lamb) sets in the west.

Another theory is a biblical one. According to the Guardian, “Jesus's first appearance was as the sacrificial lamb, but he will return as the Lion of Judah, hence those symbolic animals.”

In weather words, this folklore means March will start with wild, active weather and end with tame, quiet weather. This is not surprising since March is when we transition from winter to spring. 

But, what defines "wild weather?" 

It could be the wild winds that just came through on Monday, heavy rainfall or snow, or unseasonably cold temperatures.

In Moline, there is 30.4% that we will get rain at the start of March, according to the National Weather Service. There is a 6.3% chance that we will get at least 1 inch of snow will occur. There has only ever been 2 inches or more of snow four times in recorded history. The most ever was on March 1, 1948, with a record of 4.9 inches of snow. The greatest amount of rainfall that occurred was 1.01 inches on March 1, 1991. 

We will have some rain for the last night of February, but that’ll clear by the first day of March. We will have unseasonably warm temperatures as highs are expected to be in the mid to upper 50s and mostly sunny skies!

However, the wild weather could make its way through the area by March 3, so March could still come in like a lion, right? As of this publishing, there is a chance for snow on Friday with snowfall amounts of 4-6 inches in the immediate Quad Cities. There is also a chance for 6 inches or more snow further to the north near Maquoketa and less snow further south of the immediate Quad Cities.

Since that will occur within the first few days of March, I guess March will be coming in like a lion, ROAR!

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