The Easter coldsnap: Fact or fiction?

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 24, 2015

“Daddy always said you can count on a cold snap around Easter.”
It seemed like every spring my mother would repeat this bit of family wisdom. Her parents, and their parents before them, lived in the Piney Woods of south Mississippi.
Of course, this prognostication was not unique to my grandfather. In fact, it isn’t unique to the folklore of south Mississippi. A quick search of the Internet shows that the idea of a “cold snap around Easter” is common among folks in neighboring Alabama and Louisiana, and even from the Carolinas to east Texas.
Is there something about Easter that prompts cold air to surge south into the southern United States?
Well, no.
Easter occurs on a different date from year to year, as early as March 22nd and as late as April 25th. The reason why the date of Easter moves around is an interesting topic. The answer is related to the date of the first full moon after the spring equinox, but that doesn’t have anything to do with the weather, so I will leave it to the curious to do their own Internet search for that answer.
It doesn’t take a meteorologist to recognize that March 22nd through April 25th is in the heart of spring for those of us in the Deep South. By the time Easter rolls around, regardless of the year, we are likely to have experienced quite a bit of pleasantly mild, even warm, spring weather. Some of us might be lulled into thinking that the cold is gone until fall.
As the days of spring pass, cold fronts become less frequent, and those that do pass through are followed by cooler rather than colder air. As Easter approaches, we are getting used to leaving our coats in the closet, and the heater switch in the “off” position.
And, then, Brrr! (Not a meteorological term, but, nevertheless, a descriptive one.) A strong cold front sweeps through, and we are back in our closets scrounging for a jacket. The fact that this often happens within a week or so of Easter is not surprising, given the range of dates when Easter occurs every year.
Our cousins farther north are in an earlier stage of spring during this pre-Easter time frame. Their late season cold snaps often occur after Easter. People in the upper South and Midwest, (think Kentucky or Ohio) call an early May cold snap “Blackberry Winter,” because their blackberries are often blooming at that time. (Some of you may know the classic Alec Wilder song of this title.)
Easter, April 5th this year, is still twelve days away, too far out to have much confidence in the numerical weather models’ predictions.

By: Skip Rigney

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