La Nina Winter 2010-2011: Cold and snowy (updated March 4th)

                           Issued 1100 am CST Fri Mar 4th 2011

    We recently closed out meteorological winter, which runs from December 1st to the end of February. 

Per previous article (click here), the La Nina of 2010-2011 is interesting because it followed an El Nino for 2009-2010.  In the past when this happens, we often see colder than normal weather in Madison and Milwaukee in late winter and early Spring.  These years also featured above normal snowfall, especially from January through March.   Although it took a little longer this time around, the colder weather and the heavier snowfall finally did materialize later in January into February.  Temperatures in the first half of February were around 9 degrees below normal, before a mild spell just about evened things out for the remainder of the month.  Overall, the winter was slightly below normal in Milwaukee and Madison for temperatures, and well above normal for snowfall.  

Milwaukee -  Normal/Departure from Normal

Month                     Temperatures                 Snowfall

Dec 2010                          26.2F/-1.5F                         8.3"/-3.4"

Jan 2011                           20.7F/-0.1F                       19.0"/+3.8"

Feb 2011                           25.4F/-0.2F                      29.6"/+18.3"

Winter 2010/2011             23.4F/-0.6F                       56.9"/+18.7"

Although above normal, the winter snowfall did not make the top 10 snowiest winters.  It will go down as the 14th highest ever in the Milwaukee area, nearly 20 inches less than the snowy winter of 3 years ago. 

Rank  Snow       Winter 
  1      89.8"    1887/1886
  2     85.0"    1897/1898
  3     76.5"    2007/2008
 14   56.9"   2010/2011

Temperature - Milwaukee was a tad below normal over the winter, which is typical in these situations. 


         It had been dry in Milwaukee since November, at least for total melted precipitation.  It is typically dry in November and December,  but the continued dry weather in January was a bit unusual based on past history.  It finally turned wet in February as expected. 


        December featured less than normal snowfall, which was a bit unusual.   January and February came in well above normal as expected.


  Madison -  Normal/Departure from Normal

Month                     Temperatures                 Snowfall

Dec 2010                          19.6F/-3.4F                       20.8"/+8.2"

Jan 2011                           16.8F/-0.5F                       20.1"/+7.2"

Feb 2011                           22.1F/-0.5F                      23.8"/+15.2"

Winter 2010/2011             19.4F/-1.5F                      64.7"/+30.6"

The winter snowfall at Madison was the 3rd highest on record.  It is interesting to note that 3 of the 4 highest winter snowfalls ever in Madison area have occurred in the past 4 winters.   Also, during the past winter, each of the 3 months of December, January, and February all had at least 20" of snow per month.  That is only the 2nd time this has happened during a winter.  The first time was just 3 years ago during the record winter of 2007/2008 when the all time record seasonal snowfall of 101.4" was set.

Rank  Snow       Winter 
  1      87.8"    2007/2008
  2     65.8"    1897/1898
3    64.7"  2010/2011
  4      62.3"   2008/2009

 Temperature - Madison was well below normal in December, but just slightly below normal overall for the winter which is typical for these El Nino to La Nina transitions.

Also, like Milwaukee, Madison had been drier than normal from the Fall into the winter, which is a bit unusual for these situations.  February did come in above normal as expected. 



Madison jumped well above normal on snowfall in December, and that trend continued for January and February as expected.



Jeff Craven, Science and Operations Officer

National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sullivan WI 

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