A Cold Winter So Far (Updated 2-11-11)

It's been cold so far...but warmer weather is on the way this weekend.

This winter has been snowier and colder than average so far, but still a far cry from records. Not a single record low has been set in Madison or Milwaukee, and the overall average temperature this winter doesn't come near the coldest on record. One thing that has stood out though, is the persistent sub-freezing temperatures.

Other than a brief thaw at the end of December, this winter has been mostly void of mild stretches. In fact, since December 1st, there have been only 8 days in Madison where the temperature rose above freezing. This ranks as the second fewest  on record for the combined months of December and January, a mark only surpassed by the first part of the winter of 1919-1920. There have only been 14 above freezing days in Milwaukee since December 1st, good for 6th place all time. Below are the records for the fewest amount of above freezing days for Madison and Milwaukee:


Winter Dec Jan Total
1919-1920 3 3 6
2010-2011 6 2 8
1876-1877 3 5 8
1903-1904 6 3 9
1892-1893 9 0 9
1872-1873 5 4 9
2008-2009 7 3 10
1976-1977 10 0 10
1944-1945 6 4 10
1886-1887 5 5 10
1880-1881 8 2 10
1874-1875 9 1



Winter Dec Jan Total
1976-1977 8 0 8
1876-1877 3 6 9
1919-1920 5 7 12
1917-1918 11 1 12
1962-1963 9 4 13
2010-2011 10 4 14
1903-1904 8 6 14
1892-1893 12 2 14
1981-1982 14 1 15
1944-1945 11 4 15
1904-1905 10 5 15
1872-1873 8 7 15

After a couple of brutally cold days continued the persistent below freezing trend, indications are that a warm up is finally on the way! West to southwest winds will pull a milder airmass into the area this weekend, with above average temperatures possible through much of next week.

The current forecast calls for high temperatures in the 30s to low 40s Saturday through much of next week for Milwaukee and Madison. Below is a chart showing observed high temperatures since December 1st for Madison and Milwaukee, as well as the forecast highs for the next week:

Temperatures would probably crack the 40s much quicker if not for so much snow on the ground from southern Wisconsin well to the south. The latest snow depth analysis shows snow on the ground south of here from the Texas/Oklahoma border east through northern Mississippi and Alabama:

According to this map, it appears that Florida may be the only state in the lower 48 without snow on the ground. Milder air flowing over this expansive snow pack will be cooled by the snow. Over time though, the snow pack will diminish from south to north, allowing an easier intrusion of milder air into the area. For now, we'll have to settle for the 30s or maybe low 40s and enjoy the good snowman making weather.


Denny VanCleve

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