Category Archives: Climate

Why is Memorial Day weekend weather highly variable?

Memorial Day weekend weather can be absolutely glorious in the state of Wisconsin. But it can be rainy and cold as well. Perhaps no other major holiday suffers such a Jekyll and Hyde split, and there are really good scientific reasons that underlie this duality.

By the end of May, the Northern Hemisphere is just about completely over the prior winter and the cold air that characterized it is almost completely left to very high latitudes, where the longer days act quickly to erode what is left even near the North Pole. The process of “shedding” the cold air from winter sometimes involves the excursion southward of regional cold air vortices in the mid-troposphere, which meteorologists refer to as “cut off” low pressure systems. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Seasons

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Has this year’s tornado activity been abnormal?

Preliminary reports from the Storm Prediction Center tally higher than the historical averages though May 2024. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Meteorology, Severe Weather

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Has our plant hardiness zone changed?

If you are involved with gardening, you probably are aware of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map, or PHZM, often listed on seed packets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture developed the zones and first published them in 1960. The USDA updated them in 2012 and more recently in November 2023.

A hardiness zone provides information on the type of plants capable of surviving certain climatic conditions. The designations are based on the “average annual extreme minimum temperature” at a given location during a particular 30-year period. The climate zones are determined from temperature records kept by National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Seasons

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You thought Wisconsin’s winter was warm? Wait till summer

Changes in the weather patterns that brought record-breaking warm temperatures to the Madison area this winter might also mean that a warmer-than-usual summer lies ahead.

There’s a fair chance that temperatures could rise above normal in June, July and August, and even into early fall, climate scientists say. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Seasons

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How did this mild winter compare to previous such years?

We are now past the end of the meteorological winter, which consists of the months of December, January and February.

This season has been a remarkably mild one for most of its duration. With the exception of a week of desperate cold in mid-January, there was hardly any cold air to speak of in southern Wisconsin all winter. In fact, Madison was 9.5 degrees above normal for December, 3.5 degrees above normal for January (reduced because of the cold snap Jan. 14-21, during which the temperature was 14 degrees below normal!) and 11 degrees above normal for February. Continue reading

Category: Climate, Seasons

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