Is Dane County wind affected by Lake Superior ice?

A reader wondered whether his perception that it has become windier in southern Wisconsin over the past couple of decades has anything to do with the shorter Lake Superior ice season during the same time.

Though it has been demonstrated by recent research by our UW Atmospheric and Oceanic Science colleagues, Dr. Ankur Desai and Galen McKinley, that the shorter ice season on Lake Superior has led to warmer water in the summer and stronger winds locally near the lake — which, in turn change the currents in the lake itself — these effects are confined to the near vicinity of the lake.

Statistics on wind speed are not as common as those regarding temperature or precipitation and so longterm trends in surface windiness are not easily available. However, it is nearly certain that the local effects that control the changes near Lake Superior do not have a substantial effect on the winds over southern Wisconsin.

Autumn and winter winds in our part of the state are determined by our proximity to regions of low pressure that develop with regularity during the cold season and by turbulence resulting from daytime heating during the summer.

Of course, summertime winds are also greatly influenced by thunderstorm activity as we witnessed last Wednesday in the first significant, widespread rain in the southern part of the state since late May.

Category: Climate
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