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Temperatures across the northeastern United States and Canada were further below normal this winter than anywhere else in the world.
Temperatures across the northeastern United States and Canada were further below normal this winter than anywhere else in the world. (Photo: NOAA)

Wisconsin's winter was much different than most of the rest of the world's

As we suffered through our nasty, cold winter, countless people asked me, "So, what happened to global warming?" The question always came tinged with both a political bent and flat-out exasperation with the persistent chill.

My response was always the same: "The globe is pretty big. It can be both unusually cold here and unusually warm in many other places."

Indeed, we now have the data to show that was the case.

http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/map-blended-mntp/201312-201402.gif

The National Climatic Data Center (a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)) has published a map which shows how much above and below normal the average temperature was across the world during the period of December through February. It clearly shows what we already knew: Much of the U.S., especially the Great Lakes and the Northeast, had a winter in which temperatures averaged well below normal.

At the same time, it also clearly shows that much of the world had a very different experience than us. Europe, parts of Russia, Southeast Asia and Alaska had particularly warm winters. In fact, many countries experienced winters which ranked in their top five warmest on record, including:

  • Austria – second warmest
  • The Netherlands – tied for second warmest
  • Switzerland – third warmest
  • Germany – fourth warmest
  • Denmark – fifth warmest

Furthermore, when the combined average temperature across the entire globe was calculated, it was determined that it was the eighth highest on record for the December through January time frame. The Northern Hemisphere had its eighth warmest winter and the Southern Hemisphere (where it was summer) tied for its sixth warmest on record.

Meanwhile, the U.S. experienced its 34th coldest winter in its 119 years of record-keeping.

It is important to remember that while the weather we experience in our little corner of the world is most important to us, the world is a big place. What’s going on where we live is often not representative of what’s going on across the rest of the world.…

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As we finally pull out of this winter's deep-freeze, memories drift back to the record-setting warmth of March 2012.
As we finally pull out of this winter's deep-freeze, memories drift back to the record-setting warmth of March 2012.

Summer started early in Milwaukee in 2012

It was about this time in 2012 that spring began.

Heck, summer began.

Do you remember?

From March 11 to  22 in 2012, Milwaukee had one day in the 50s, three days in the 60s, six days in the 70s, and two days in the 80s.

I remember. I was flat on my back in bed with the flu on those two days in the 80s.

It began on March 11 when Milwaukee set a record high by reaching 66 degrees. We followed that up with 60 on March 12 and 66 on March 13, and we were just getting started.

We set back-to-back record-highs on March 14 and 15 by hitting 78 and 72, respectively. A one-day cool-down to 58 followed on March 16, before we returned to the 70s for a three-day stretch, March 17-19. (Do you remember how warm St. Patrick’s Day was?) March 18 was another record-setter, as we topped-off at 79.

The peak of the warmth was on March 20 and 21. On the 20th we set a record by hitting 83, and then bested that by setting a record by hitting 84 on the 21st. That 84-degree reading stands as the warmest temperature on record in Milwaukee in March.

M arch 2012

11

66*

12

60

13

66

14

78*

15

72*

16

58

17

74

18

79*

19

72

20

83*

21

84**

22

74

*Record-high
**Warmest temperature on record in March

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After suffering through the 10th coldest Dec. through Feb. period on record in Milwaukee, we're all ready for a big warm-up. We may need to wait another month.
After suffering through the 10th coldest Dec. through Feb. period on record in Milwaukee, we're all ready for a big warm-up. We may need to wait another month.

Temperature outlook for March is probably not what you're hoping for

This falls into the "Are you kidding me?" department.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its weather outlook for the month of March. I’m sure you will be less than thrilled to learn that it suggests a rather high probability that temperatures will average below normal across Wisconsin.

Yep. Again.

The area shaded in blue on the map below is where the probability of temperatures averaging below normal is higher than the probability of temperatures averaging above normal. As you can see, Wisconsin is right in the bullseye.

http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/30day/off15_temp.gif

It’s important to point out this outlook deals in probabilities. It does not suggest that temperatures are guaranteed to average below normal in March. And, even if temperatures do average below normal for the month, there will probably be at least some days when temperatures are above normal.

All of that said, there are pretty strong signals that we have another rather cold month ahead of us.

On the plus side, the normal temperature is going up. Normal temperatures rise from highs in the mid 30s and lows in the low 20s at the start of March, to highs in the upper 40s and lows in the low 30s at the end of the month.

So, even "colder than normal" will be "warmer than it’s been."

Our persistently cold weather pattern has put this winter in the neighborhood of some of the coldest winters on record in Milwaukee.
Our persistently cold weather pattern has put this winter in the neighborhood of some of the coldest winters on record in Milwaukee. (Photo: Bobby Tanzilo)

Milwaukee's 14th coldest winter on record ... so far

You’re right. This has been an unusually cold winter.

Even an average winter would have felt pretty cold in comparison to last year’s mild winter. Instead, we’re suffering through our coldest winter since 1983-84.

For the purposes of record-keeping, winter is considered to be the months of December, January and February. With two of those months in the books, this winter’s average temperature has been 17.5 degrees. That makes this Milwaukee’s 14th coldest winter on record (since 1870) through the first two months.

Our coldest start to winter occurred in 1976-77 when the average temperature was 12.3 degrees.

Here are Milwaukee’s 15 coldest starts to winter:

Rank ... Avg. Temp ... Winter Season

1 ... 12.3 ... 1976-77

2 ... 14.1 ... 1876-77

3 ... 14.4 ... 1917-18

4 ... 15.1 ... 1962-63

5 ... 15.6 ... 1886-87

6(tie) - 16.0 1919-20

6(tie) ... 16.0 ... 1958-59

8(tie) ... 16.2 ... 1884-85

8(tie) ... 16.2 ... 1872-73

10(tie) ... 16.4 ... 1874-75

10(tie) ... 16.4 ... 1903-04

12 ... 16.6 ... 1983-84

13 ... 16.9 ... 1981-82

14 ... 17.5 ... 2013-14

15 ... 17.6 ... 1978-79