Category Archives: History

How does the recent humidity stack up against prior Mays?

The dramatic shift in our weather that took place over the last week will likely be memorable for a number of reasons.

First, on Tuesday Madison reached 90 degrees for the first time this year, the fourth earliest first 90-degree day in Madison’s history. Continue reading

Category: History, Meteorology, Seasons

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Why is May 6 such a special day in weather science history?

Immediately after World War II, it became fashionable to imagine technologies that might allow human beings to control the weather.

In fact, one goal advanced by influential scientists was actually to explode nuclear bombs in the right locations and in the right quantity so as to alter the weather in favorable ways. Such an enterprise would require accurate forecasts of the weather thought possible by using the brand new computer technology to make the millions of requisite calculations. Continue reading

Category: History, Meteorology

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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.

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. Continue reading

Category: History, Seasons

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Is mathematical pi used in meteorology?

The ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter is a constant value. The size of the circle does not matter; this ratio is always the same value and is called pi.

The existence of this constant was known by the Babylonians and the Egyptians dating back to at least 2000 B.C. The numerical value is represented by the Greek letter for p, or π. Continue reading

Category: History, Meteorology

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When was the National Weather Service created?

While successfully prosecuting the Civil War against the Confederacy, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had learned that weather information — even if not in the form of a forecast — was extremely valuable for operations.

Then, in the years after the war, Dr. Increase Lapham, a Milwaukee scientist, lobbied Milwaukee’s congressman, Gen. Halbert Paine, to push for the establishment of a storm warning service for the Great Lakes. On Feb. 2, 1870, Paine introduced a Joint Congressional Resolution requiring the Secretary of War “to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent, and at other points in the States and Territories … and for giving notice on the northern lakes and on the seacoast, by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms.” Continue reading

Category: History, Meteorology

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