How does this current February warm spell rank?

A frozen lake is a public good for all.
Photo Credit: John Hart, WSJ

It’s no secret we have had some amazingly warm weather the past few days. After reaching 60 Fahrenheit Friday February 17, the temperature soared to 62 F Saturday in Madison, breaking the previous record for the date (57 F) set in 1981.

In Milwaukee, the record-shattering was even more extraordinary as the Saturday high of 67 F broke the old record for the date – set in 1877—by 10 degrees! In fact, Milwaukee’s high of 67 F was just one degree short of its all-time February record of 68 set on Feb. 11, 1999.

Madison’s 62 F on February 18 was only two degrees shy of its all-time monthly record of 64 F set on February 25, 2000.

These are clearly exceptional temperatures!

Combining Friday and Saturday’s warmth with what appears likely in the short-term forecast, both cities may be in the running to record another unusual meteorological event by Wednesday of this week.

It is quite rare for six consecutive days in February to have high temperatures of at least 50 F. This last occurred in Milwaukee in 2000 while the wait has been much longer in Madison – not since 1930!

The expansive ridge of high pressure that is responsible for our warm spell appears reluctant to move so we may well see the longest February warm streak in Madison since Herbert Hoover was living in the White House.

In addition, it is not inconceivable we could set a daily record on every one of those days. It is a welcome respite from winter and should serve as an encouraging reminder of what is to come.

Steve Ackerman and Jonathan Martin, professors in the UW-Madison department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences, are guests on WHA radio (970 AM) at 11:45 a.m. the last Monday of each month.

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