Bitter cold week will move brutal winter of 2013-14 up in historical records, forecasters say

2014-02-25T08:30:00Z Bitter cold week will move brutal winter of 2013-14 up in historical records, forecasters sayJEFF RICHGELS | | | 608-252-6449

One way to measure the brutality of winter is by how many days of zero or below there are.

Madison has suffered 35 such days in the seemingly unending winter of 2013-14 and at least four more are forecast this week, which would move the winter from tied for 14th most to tied for sixth most at 39, according to the National Weather Service.

And since it’s been zero in Madison as late as April 7, there’s plenty of time to move up further.

The 35 zero or below days for Madison this winter ties the 1892-1893, 1916-1917, 1928-1929, 1978-1979 seasons. The normal for 1981-2010 is 17 and the average since 1869 is 20. The record is 51 in 1884-85 and the fewest is 2 in 1997-98.

Milwaukee has had 24 such days this winter and is forecast to suffer two more this week, which would push it to 11th most ever. Milwaukee’s record is 41 in 1884-1885, and the least is zero in 2009-2010, when the lowest temperature was 1.

Another surge of arctic air is forecast to move in overnight, with a wind chill warning in effect for the counties of Dane, Iowa, Sauk, Columbia, Green, Lafayette, Marquette and Green Lake from 9 p.m. Tuesday to noon Wednesday.

The Weather Service said wind chill values are expected to hit 20 below to 30 below, meaning exposed skin will be susceptible to frostbite within 30 minutes.

“Unseasonably cold air will continue to get reinforced over southern Wisconsin this week,” the Weather Service said. “We are looking at temperatures running about 15 to 20 degrees below normal at times. Wind chills late Wednesday night through Thursday morning are expected to drop to 15 to 25 below zero once again. A wind chill advisory will likely be needed.”

In Madison on Tuesday, look for mostly sunny skies and a high near 13 with northwest winds at 10 to 15 miles per hour producing wind chill values of 5 below to zero.

The overnight low should fall to around 9 below with northwest winds around 10 mph producing wind chill values of 15 below to 25 below.

Wednesday should again be mostly sunny and cold, with a high near 10 and southwest winds at 10 to 15 mph increasing to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon and gusting as high as 30 mph, producing wind chill values of 15 below to 25 below.

The low overnight Wednesday into Thursday should be around 3 below, with southwest winds of 15 to 20 mph turning out of the northwest and gusting as high as 30 mph, producing wind chill values of 10 below to 20 below.

Thursday should be sunny with a high near 6, and an overnight low  tumbling to around 15 below early Friday, but with winds becoming calm.

Temperatures should moderate slightly by the weekend, but remain well below normal, with highs Friday through Monday near 11, 9, 16 and 21, and lows Friday night through Sunday night near 3 below, 1 below and 4.

Normals for Madison for March 2-3, Sunday and Monday, are 37 and 20.

Skies should be partly sunny Friday and Saturday and mostly cloudy Sunday and Monday, with chances for snow at 30 percent Friday, 20 percent Friday night and Saturday, 30 percent Saturday night and Sunday, and 20 percent Sunday night and Monday, according to the Weather service.

27 Storm Track meteorologist Brian Olson also expects a mostly quiet stretch with bitter cold temperatures this week.

Olson forecasts highs in Madison Tuesday through next Tuesday 14, 12, 4, 11, 12, 17, 22 and 17, and overnight lows around 11 below, 6 below, 15 below, 2, 5, 10, 17 and 1 below.

Wind chills could tumble as low as 30 below early Wednesday and 25 below early Thursday, he predicted.

Olson said there could be some light snow and flurries later on Friday, again later on Saturday into the overnight, a little light snow Sunday, and a few snow showers Monday.

Monday’s high in Madison was 23 at 3:47 p.m., 11 degrees below normal and 39 degrees below the record high of 62 for Feb. 24, set in 2002.

Monday’s low in Madison was 7 at 6:55 a.m., 11 degrees below normal and 20 degrees above the record low of 13 below for Feb. 24, set in 1889.

No precipitation was recorded at the Dane County Regional Airport on Monday, leaving Madison’s February total at 1.16 inches, 0.05 inches below normal. Madison’s 2014 precipitation total (rain plus snow converted to liquid) stayed at 1.81 inches, 0.63 inches below normal. The meteorological winter (December through February) total stayed at 3.43 inches, 0.75 inches below normal.

With no snow on Monday, Madison’s February total stayed at 11 inches, 1.7 inches above normal. For meteorological winter, Madison has received 45.5 inches, 9.8 inches above normal. For the snow season (since July 1), Madison has received 49 inches, 9.2 inches above normal. Madison’s official snow depth is 6 inches.

The record snowfall for Feb. 24 is 6 inches in 1938.

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