Spring begins today, but it just doesn't feel that way

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Take heart: The first day of spring is here.

As we hesitantly tiptoe out of hibernation, trying to remember what sunshine feels like, it seems old Punxsutawney Phil knew something when he burrowed down for six more weeks of winter.

The March equinox arrives today at 12:57 p.m. That means the perils of winter are behind us, right?

The good folks at the Farmers' Almanac would now like to crush your spring-loving dreams.

Despite the official change of season, the almanac predicts a late start to spring and an exceptionally wet one at that. The almanac, headquartered in Maine, has been predicting weather trends since 1818. The mathematical and astronomical formula includes data from sun spots, positions of the planets and tides.

"A few years ago we were in shorts in March," said Sandi Duncan, Farmers' Almanac managing editor. "That won't be the case this year."

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Put the shorts away. Spring won't immediately usher in warm temperatures and sunshine.

"People aren't going to be too happy," said National Weather Service meteorologist Lee Hendricks, who said skies Thursday will be mostly overcast. Highs will be in the low 40s, with winds between 15 and 20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph.

The normal high temperature for March 20 is 51 degrees.

"People are dying to see sunny weather," he said. "It won't be coming in the next few weeks."

Temperatures will be in the mid-30s Sunday, with a chance of snow showers Tuesday morning that will turn into rain. Not exactly picnic weather.

Looking ahead, Mr. Hendricks said the extended outlook for the region shows an equal chance of both above and below normal temperatures and precipitation, meaning no significant change to the current weather pattern.

No significant warm-up soon, but probably not the doomsday prediction former Accuweather and current WeatherBELL forecaster Joe Bastardi tweeted, calling it the "coldest opening to calendar spring in 50 years."

At the moment, temperatures have been averaging 4.5 degrees below normal per day. He said that trend could extend into early April.

"If you're looking for sunshine before June, don't live south of the Great Lakes," he said.

Over in New Hampshire, where headquarters are for the Old Farmer's Almanac, senior almanac editor Mare-Ann Jarvela said despite the immediate forecast of cool temperatures, showers and flurries, "spring is right around the corner," if people can hang on until April.

"Everyone is really tired," she said, "Nights will still be cool but this is the last of the storms. We're all really tired."

Like the rival almanac, Ms. Jarvela's publication uses a historical formula for its annual prognostications. The Old Farmer's Almanac still uses part of the original 1792 formula to predict weather patterns for 16 U.S. regions and five in Canada.

Ms. Jarvela said temperatures will be an average of 4 degrees above normal in April.

Back in Maine, the Farmers' Almanac predicts an unseasonably warm patch in mid-April, but it will be short-lived.

"It will be a tease," Ms. Duncan said. "Just long enough to give people some hope."

If it's warmth you crave, just hang on a few more months, when Ms. Duncan says we'll have an "oppressively hot, humid and thundery" summer. At least it's something.

Lauren Lindstrom: llindstrom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964.

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