Recent Winters Colder/Snowier in Southern WI

Issued Jan 1st 2009 2 pm CST.  Updated 620 pm CST Sun Mar 1st 2009

Much of the decade has featured warmer than normal winters at Milwaukee and Madison along with less than average snow.

The past couple of winters have been much different, with record or near record snowfall and temperatures closer to normal.  In fact, Madison broke its seasonal snowfall record in 2007-2008 and the all-time monthly snowfall record in December 2008.  Madison also experienced its coldest winter in 23 years.  The past two winters rank 1st and 3rd all time snowiest for Madison. 

For the sake of definition, the winter months are December, January, and February.  So let's take a look at the temperatures relative to normal and the snowfall for the past 4 winters in comparison to this winter.  For simplicity, we'll call the winter of 2008-2009 "2009".

First off, here are the charts for Milwaukee


After a few warm winters, last winter was the first in a while with slightly below average temperatures.  The winter of 2005-2006 was 3.5 degrees warmer than normal, while 2008-2009 was 2.3 degree cooler than normal.  That means that it was nearly 6 degrees colder this winter than just 3 years ago.  Snowfall has definitely increased in the past three winters.

 Next, let's look at the charts for Madison


The Madison charts show the same basic trend as in Milwaukee.  Warm winters relative to normal have been replaced by cooler than normal winters.  Slightly below average snowfall a few years ago has been replaced by much above average (record) snows in the past 3 winters.

If you look at data for the Milwaukee and Madison areas since 1850, here are the rankings for the winter of 2008-2009 for temperature and snowfall:

Location        Average Temperature/Rank        Snowfall/Rank

Milwaukee     21.6 F      40th coldest               53.1    16th snowiest

 Milwaukee had coldest winter since 2000-2001.   Last winter (2007-2008) was 3rd snowiest.

Madison         16.8 F      29th coldest               62.3     3rd snowiest

 Madison had coldest winter since 1985-1986.  Last winter (2007-2008) was snowiest ever.

So, even in a period of apparent global warming, not all parts of the world are warmer all of the time.  There is always plenty of variation on a month to month, and year to year basis.  And things vary from one part of the world to another, even one part of a state to another.    

 Jeff Craven

Science and Operations Officer

National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan WI 

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