A Top 5 Warmest Winter (Updated 3/1 625 AM)

The winter of 2011-2012 will go down as one of the warmest on record for southern Wisconsin. The average temperature in December ranked the 11th warmest in Milwaukee and the 12th warmest in Madison. The warm trend then continued on through January with Milwaukee recording the 14th warmest average temperature and Madison, the 13th.  February was mild as well, with Milwaukee ending up with the 17th warmest average temperature and Madison, the 14th. These three mild months combined to produce a top 5 warmest meteorological winter (Dec - Feb) on record for Madison and Milwaukee.

Here are the top 10 warmest average winter temperatures on record (December through February):

                         Milwaukee

Rank Temperature Season
1 32.6 1931-1932
2 31.8 2001-2002
3 31.7 1877-1878
4 31.6 1881-1882
5 31.0 2011-2012
6 30.7 1889-1890
7 30.6 1997-1998
8 30.3 1930-1931
9 29.8 1920-1921
  29.8 1991-1992
  

                         Madison 

Rank Temperature Season
1 32.1 1877-1878
2 29.8 1881-1882
3 29.7 2001-2002
4 28.7 2011-2012
  28.7 1931-1932
6 28.4 1889-1890
  28.4 1997-1998
8 27.7 1879-1880
9 27.3 1930-1931
10 27.0 1991-1992

In fact, for December through February, Milwaukee had 71 days with high temperatures above 32 degrees and Madison, 66 days. For comparison, the normal number of days during this time period is 43 in Milwaukee and 36 in Madison.

Even more impressive is the number of days with high temperatures above 40 degrees through the winter. Milwaukee had 35 days with high temperatures above 40 degrees and Madison, 32 days. The normal number of days is 15 in Milwaukee and 12 in Madison.

The effect of the warmer temperatures can be seen in the total snowfall amounts. While temperatures have been higher than normal, snowfall has not, though there has been a reduction in the deficit recently. Milwaukee's total snowfall for this winter (Dec - Feb) was 24.2", 10.9" below normal and Madison's was 22.9", 14.1" below normal. These snowfall amounts place Milwaukee in 44th place for the least snowy winter and Madison in 50th place. However, total liquid precipitation amounts were near normal with winter totals finishing 0.16" below normal in Madison and 0.88" below in Milwaukee.

Top 10 least snowy winter seasons on record (December through February):

                         Milwaukee 

Rank Snowfall Season
1 6.1" 1936-1937
2 8.5" 1884-1885
3 8.6" 1960-1961
4 9.3" 1967-1968
5 9.7" 1927-1928
6 10.6" 1898-1899
7 11.4" 1940-1941
8 11.5" 1921-1922
9 13.2" 1953-1954
10 13.9" 1986-1987

                          Madison

Rank Snowfall Season
1 2.9" 1901-1902
2 3.1" 1960-1961
3 9.1" 1943-1944
4 9.9" 1898-1899
5 10.1" 1931-1932
6 10.2" 1967-1968
7 10.3" 1933-1934
8 10.6" 1894-1895
9 10.9" 1906-1907
10 12.1" 1955-1956

The number of days with above average temperatures have helped to keep the snow depth down as well.

Here are the unofficial average snow depths for each winter month, along with the values so far this winter:

Milwaukee:

Month Average This Winter
December 1.6" 0.0"
January 3.9" 1.7"
February 3.8" 0.5"

Madison:

Month Average This Winter
December 2.2" 0.1"
January 4.4" 2.5"
February 4.0" 0.5"

You may be wondering what this means for this spring and summer. While we do not have the capability to forecast just how warm (or cold) this spring and summer will be, we can tell you how other warm winter years turned out in the spring (March-May) and summer (Jun-Aug).

We took the top 20 warmest winters (in terms of average temperature), in Milwaukee, and looked up the average temperature in the spring and summer for those same years. Then, we compared the average temperature for each spring and summer to the rest of the 141 year data set.

The table below shows how the years with the top 20 warmest winters ranked, on average, in the spring and summer. The average rank shown is on a scale from 1 to 141, with 1 being the warmest and 141 being the coldest. Keep in mind, while this table shows the average results, some years were significantly different from the average.

 

Spring Rank

(out of 141 years)

Average Temperature

in Spring

Summer Rank

(out of 141 years)

Average Temperature

in Summer

Average 56.6 45.0 43.8 70.2

According to the 1981-2010 normals, Milwaukee has an average temperature of 45.4 degrees in the spring and 69.6 degrees in the summer.



 

Brooks/REM/DDV/Wood                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan



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