Author Archives: WeatherGuys Editor

What is latent heat?

Since the beginning of the 2023-24 snow season, Madison and Dane County have received approximately 32 inches of snow.

Snow is a form of solid water, and water is the only substance that occurs naturally in all three phases — solid, liquid and invisible gas — in the Earth’s atmosphere. Of course, that means that the 32 inches of snow began as the equivalent amount of water in the invisible vapor (gas) phase before it transformed into solid water. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Seasons

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Have we just seen the weirdest weather of the season?

The extremely unusual weather we have experienced this winter perhaps reached a new peak last Thursday when, in addition to remarkable springlike temperatures in the southern part of the state — Madison reached a high of 55 degrees while Milwaukee hit 59 — there were confirmed tornadoes in several southern counties: Dane, Rock and Green.

These are the first February tornadoes ever recorded in Wisconsin. And this means we are in absolutely uncharted weather and climate territory. What’s more, this strange weather is not limited to our region. In fact, thus far the entire Northern Hemisphere is running its fourth-warmest winter (Dec. 1 through Feb. 7) in the past 76, years and we have a genuine shot at being the warmest ever by the time this month is over. Continue reading

Category: Uncategorized

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What are folklore weather forecasts?

Folklore forecasts, often in the form of short rhymes, help farmers and mariners predict short term weather. Continue reading

Category: History, Seasons

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Are drones used in meteorology?

Unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, have been used to make weather observations for half a century. Over the past decade there has been a wider application of drones in meteorology due in part to technological developments.

Drones can provide critical research observations of weather systems. For about a decade, NOAA has partnered with NASA to fly the Global Hawk high-altitude unmanned aircraft to observe and study how hurricanes form and intensify. High-resolution photographs from low-flying drones are used to understand and document wind and flood damage associated with severe weather. They also help to better assess storm intensity based on the damage. Continue reading

Category: Meteorology, Severe Weather

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Are the Madison lakes ice-covered?

The Wisconsin State Climatology Office, housed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, monitors and reports on the ice coverage of Madison lakes.

The office keeps a database of the ice-over and ice-out dates for three Madison-area lakes: Mendota, Monona and Wingra. These records extend back to the winters of 1855-1856 for Mendota and Monona. The record of annual ice cover of Wingra is spotty, but consistent starting in the winter of 1982-83. Due to the long record based on visual observations, it is no surprise that the rules of opening and closing have been handed down by oral tradition. Continue reading

Category: Climate, History, Seasons

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