How common is April snow in Madison?

The recent late March and early April snow in Madison may have stirred memories of, or raised questions about, past such late winter/early spring snows.

A large snow sculpture graces State Street Mall the day after Madison saw 7.2 inches of snow on April 18, 2018, more than doubling that date’s previous record from 1912. (Credit: State Journal archives)

Perhaps unsurprisingly to Madisonians, April snow is by no means unusual here in town. Thirty Madison Aprils — out of 84 — since 1939 have had at least one 1-inch snowfall event.

The greatest April snowfall ever in Madison is the 12.9 inches that fell on April 9, 1973 – the most substantial event in a month that tallied 17.4 inches for the entire month. More recently, we have had two Aprils in which more than 10 inches of total snow fell — April 1982 (10.3 inches) and April 2018 (13.5 inches, with 7.2 inches of that coming on April 18 of that year). Coming up just short of the 10-inch monthly total was April 1994, in which 9.7 inches fell, with a remarkable 7.8 inches falling on April 30.

This winter we have struggled to accumulate much snow in Madison with a seasonal total as of Sunday of 29.9 inches, the first winter since 1980-81 to total less than 30 inches. This meager total is a result of 0.6 inches in November, 6.5 inches in December, 9.1 inches in January, 5.4 inches in February, a perfectly average 7 inches in March and 1.3 inches in April.

In 1972-73, the snowiest month of the entire cold season was April. As boring as this cold season has been with regard to snowfall, there is still an outside chance that we could become only the second winter in the past 50 years to have its snowiest month be April.

We had some measurable snow on Saturday and in the coming week we have a chance to see more. Only three Aprils in the past 40 years have had as much as 9.2 inches of snow in the month — so it is not an easy task — but if we can somehow manage to do it in Madison this April, we will join that elite list of winter seasons.

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. Send them your questions at or

Category: History, Seasons

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