Category Archives: Meteorology
Sitting nearly in the middle of the vast North American continent, Madison has what is known as a continental climate. Continental climates are characterized by large annual extremes in temperature and humidity as well as very distinct seasons.
The continental nature of Madison’s climate is what makes a year’s worth of weather in Madison usually a lot more varied than a year’s worth in Seattle, for instance. There is an astounding 144 degrees difference between the all-time highest (107 on July 13, 1936) and all-time lowest (-37 on Jan. 31, 1951) temperature in Madison.
In addition, the amount of water vapor in the air can range from the barely detectable level in the midst of a deep winter cold spell to as much as 3.5 percent of every breath you take during a severe July heatwave. No matter what the season, the vast majority of the invisible water vapor in the atmosphere is contained in the lowest mile or two from its source at the surface.
At any one instant, the Earth’s atmosphere contains 37.5 million-billion gallons of water vapor – enough to cover the entire surface of the planet with 1 inch of rain if condensed. This amount is recycled, through evaporation powered by the Sun, 40 times each year in what is known as the hydrologic cycle.
In each of these 40 cycles, enough energy is expended to power the U.S. — the largest consumer of energy in the world — for 3,441 years! A truly astounding amount of energy. Continue reading
Despite a prolonged deep freeze that straddled the end of December and the first week of January, during which we had below-zero morning low temperatures on 12 of 13 consecutive days, the month of January is likely to end at just about normal for Madison.
We are not, however, out of the woods just yet. Climatologically, the last week of January/first week of February is the coldest time of the year as a result of several physical factors. Continue reading
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has completed its scientific analysis and the globally averaged surface temperature for 2017 was the third-highest since record keeping began in 1880.
The warmest year is 2016, and 2015 is the second warmest. Since 1977 global temperatures have been at least nominally above the 20th century average. The six warmest years on record have occurred since 2010. Continue reading
Like Earth, the north and south poles of Mars have ice caps that grow and shrink with Mars’ seasons.
Mars’ ice caps are made mainly of water ice, although Mars is cold enough to also have frozen carbon dioxide, or dry ice. Continue reading
The roots of our National Weather Service have a distinctive Wisconsin flavor. Professor Increase A. Lapham, a University of Wisconsin professor at the time of the founding of the university, was the first official Smithsonian Institution weather observer in Milwaukee … Continue reading