After a pattern change in mid-February...continued milder weather expected.
Other than a brief thaw at the end of December, the first part of the winter was void of mild stretches. There were only 8 days in Madison where the temperature rose above freezing in December and January, good for the second fewest on record for that time period. There were only 14 above freezing days in Milwaukee, good for 6th place all time.
Just when it seemed like milder temperatures might never return, a shift in the weather pattern across the country occurred. The eastern half of the United States had been locked into a troughing pattern for much of the winter, but this finally broke down with zonal flow to ridging allowing for a return of normal to above normal temperatures. This pattern has generally held on since then, with above normal temperatures forecast for much of this week. Below is a chart showing observed high temperatures for Madison and Milwaukee since early January, along with forecast highs for the next few days:
To put this abrupt change in terms of percentages, the table below shows percent of days above freezing before and after the pattern shift:
Percent of Days Above Freezing
|Jan 2 - Feb 11
|Feb 12 - Mar 12||69%||76%|
Below is a chart showing the effect that the warm up had on a once impressive snowpack:
With spring only a week away, have we seen the last of cold and snowy winter weather? Temperatures are forecast to be near to above normal through this week, with the Climate Prediction Center then predicting a 55 percent chance of above normal temperatures in the 6 to 10 day time range. Don't be surprised if winter has one more good laugh, but it at least looks like long term cold weather may have ended until next winter, as should be expected with spring right around the corner.