We are at the beginning of the most intense cold air outbreak of the winter thus far with high temperatures today not likely to rise above zero. It may be similarly cold tomorrow.
Having two consecutive days in a row with daytime high temperatures below zero is noteworthy in Madison. The last time that occurred in town was in early February 1996 (Feb. 2 and 3).
In fact, a daily high temperature colder than minus 5 has only occurred 12 times in the last 33 years, while a daily high lower than minus 10 has only been recorded on four occasions in that time period.
In addition, the morning low on Monday is likely to be near 20 below zero. The last time Madison saw a morning low temperature that low was on December 25, 2000, when the low was minus 21, part of a 12-day stretch during which 11 days had morning lows below zero.
Overnight lows of minus 20 or colder are not common in Madison, though not unprecedented. Since 1980 it has happened 26 times and since 1990, 12 times: Jan. 15, 16, and 18-20, and Dec. 31, 1994; Jan. 31, Feb. 2, 3 and 4, 1996; Jan. 5, 1999; and Dec. 25, 2000.
The low of minus 29 recorded on Feb. 3, 1996, tied for the third coldest of all time in Madison.
Whether the current cold outbreak meets or exceeds any of these records will be quite beside the point as we all try to bear the brunt of it over the next couple of days.