What caused the recent weather extremes?

The National Weather Service in Milwaukee confirms that three separate tornadoes occurred in our state on Tuesday.

EF-1 tornadoes, with winds estimated at up to 110 mph, struck Lake Geneva and a location just outside of Big Bend. An EF-0 tornado, with winds estimated at up to 80 mph, struck southwest Waukesha.

These storms occurred at the end of the most prolonged heat wave of the summer. From Aug. 14-16, we had high temperatures in Madison of 92, 91, and 88, respectively – marking the only time yet this summer where we had consecutive days above 90.

By Wednesday, our high temperature was only 70 — our lowest high since July 8 — and the weather had turned astonishingly autumnal.

What was responsible for the fairly rapid fall of temperature? The first fall-like cyclone of the year raced across the Great Lakes states Tuesday night and Wednesday dragging the first fall-like cold front along with it. Behind the front the air is substantially colder and, perhaps most noticeably, much drier. At this time of year, the path along which such storms progress from west to east, the so-called storm track, begins to migrate southward as the northern latitudes cool in response to diminished daylight.

The good news, for now, is that the return of southerly winds and warmer temperatures is also quick when the storm track is right over Wisconsin. Later in the fall and winter, when the storm track is well to our south, the passage of storms leaves us in the cold air for much longer.

Category: Meteorology, Seasons, Severe Weather

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