The winter of 2011-2012 (December 2011, January and February 2012) went down as one of the warmest on record for southern Wisconsin. Milwaukee finished with the 5th warmest average temperature, and Madison the 4th warmest, with the state overall coming in the 3rd warmest on record. The well above normal temperatures continued into March, making for a record start to the year so far. Average temperatures for Milwaukee and Madison ranked first for the warmest start to the year on record (January through March).
Here are the top 10 warmest average temperatures on record for January 1 - March 31:
In addition, average temperatures for Milwaukee and Madison ranked first for the warmest March on record, by a whopping 4.5 degrees at Milwaukee, and 4.9 degrees at Madison!
Here are the Top 10 warmest average temperatures for March:
Below is a graph of high temperatures since March 10, along with the average and record values:
Impressive Records at Madison and Milwaukee
Six high temperature records were tied or broken in Milwaukee since March 11th. Nine high temperature records were tied or broken at Madison during this time, including five days in a row from March 14th through March 18th. In addition, Milwaukee tied or broke record high minimum temperatures for six days in a row, and Madison for five days in a row. Madison also broke the record high minimum temperature on two other occasions during this warm stretch.
The record high of 82 in Madison on March 15th was one for the record books, being noteworthy for a few reasons. First, the previous record was smashed by 13 degrees, a margin seldom seen in breaking temperature records. Second, it was the earliest occurrence of an 80 degree day on record, beating the previous earliest date by two weeks.
March 21st was another special day for the record books, as the high temperature climbed to 83 degrees. This was the highest temperature ever recorded in Madison in March! This was also the 5th day the high temperature has reached 80 degrees or higher in Madison during this warm stretch. Below is the list of 80 degree days on record in Madison during the month of March:
In addition to setting the record for the warmest high temperature in March, Madison also set the record warmest high minimum temperature in March. The all-time March record high minimum of 60 degrees was set on March 17th, and then promptly topped by a 61 on March 19th. Furthermore, the warmest overall day on record in March was established on March 20th, and again on the 21st, when Madison had an average temperature of 71 degrees!
Now, despite the best efforts of the lake breeze to keep the lakeshore area cooler, Milwaukee set a new record for the earliest occurrence of an 80 degree day as well. Not to mention, the highest temperature ever recorded in March! On March 20th, Milwaukee climbed to an impressive 83 degrees, wiping out the old record of 77 set in 1921. Previously, the earliest occurrence of an 80 degree temperature on record was March 26, 2007. The previous highest March temperature on record was 82, set on March 29th and March 31st in 1986.
Then, on March 21st, Milwaukee climbed to 84 degrees, and broke the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in March, that was set just the day before! Below is the list of 80 degree days on record in Milwaukee during the month of March:
It is also interesting to note, that in July 2009, Madison only had seven days of 80 degree temperatures, and the highest temperature for the whole month was 82. This March, Madison has had five days of 80 degree temperatures, with a high temperature for the month of 83! Milwaukee was not quite as chilly that July 2009, and had 13 days with 80 degree temperatures.
The Midwest Regional Climate Center has an interesting wrap-up of the March, 2012, warmth in the Midwest here. Graphics of the average dates of the last freeze in the spring and the average dates of the first freeze in the fall are included in their story.
NWS Milwaukee/Sullivan, WI