And now, as promised, here are your top 3 weather events of 2011 plus a recap of the weather statistics for the year.
3. The long cold Winter and Spring. When I asked people about the weather in 2011, the cold and the tornadoes are what came to mind first. This year was one of the coldest late Winter and early Spring periods we have experienced since 1996. I say this based on the fact that ice and snow lingered longer into the growing season than in any other year since 1996. I was amazed to see a huge slab of ice along the trout stream I was fishing at on the opening day of the fishing season - ON MAY 8TH! There was also a bit of ice along the shorelines of lakes and rivers in the Northwoods in early May. We had a late snowstorm on March 22nd-23rd (8 inches), another one on April 3rd (1.5 inches), yet another one on April 19th (1.9 inches, which broke the record for that date), and finally on May 3rd (0.10 inches). Temperatures averaged a little below normal for each month from January through June. Suprisingly, even though it was consistently below normal, we did not set any new record cold temperatures in Wausau, but there were a couple of records in a few other communities in the area.
2. Juneau county-Wood county-Saratoga tornado. This was not only one of the most significant weather events of 2011, it was one of the longer tornado tracks in Wisconsin history – remaining on the ground for about 70 miles! Luckily, as was the case with the Chili tornado, this one struck in relatively low population areas. Instead of rehashing all of the details here, check out these past blog posts about the event. First blog post after the tornado with an approximate track and quite a few pictures. Tony’s blog post that contains the first NWS summary. A blog post with links to many other pages with tornado data. A final blog post with the official tornado track.
1. April 10th tornadoes in Merrill and Cottonville. This severe weather and tornado outbreak was the obvious choice for the number one weather event(s) of the year. Not only because there were a couple of long-track damaging tornadoes in our area but also because it was a record for the number of tornadoes in one day in April. It was also quite odd that we had such an outbreak of severe weather when – as we saw in number 3 above – it was a cool and snowy Spring. Somehow mother nature was able to squeeze in one warm day with strong storms during April. The high temperature on the 10th was 74 – 10 dgrees warmer than any other day during the month. The strongest tornado of the day (in Merrill) was also the most damaging tornado to hit our area since the Big Flats tornado way back in 1994. Miraculously, unlike 1994, no one died during this tornado even though more than 20 homes and other structures were heavily damaged and/or destroyed. It was rated an EF3 tornado, the strongest in our area since the June 7th, 2007 tornado which tore up the forest in Shawano, Menominee, Langlade, and Oconto counties. What I remember most about visiting the damage area on the north side of Merrill is all of the insulation. As we drove down the roads, you could see little bits of yellow insulation clinging to every tree and lying in every yard, for as far as the eye could see. A lot of post storm analysis focused on the Merrill tornado but we shouldn’t forget that another strong tornado cause quite a bit of damage in Adams county around Cottonville. Two short-lived tornadoes also struck Forest couunty and caused some damage. Here is a page of blog posts that contain most of the information about the severe weather on April 10th.
Now on to the weather stats for 2011. These are preliminary numbers because we will have to eventually factor in the high and low temperatures of today and tomorrow as well as any precipitation totals. For the preliminary temps I just plugged in what we are forecasting for today and Saturday which is usually very close to the actual temps.
The interesting part about the temperatures this year is that the weather started out quite cool. Each of the first 6 months were below normal. September was below normal as well. The other 5 months were far enough above normal that the entire year ended up slightly above normal. The average high was almost exactly normal, but as has been the case in the last few years and even the last couple of decades, the average low was almost a degree and a half above normal, thus the average for the year was about a half degree above normal.
Once again this year, we did not have a record low during the Winter (in Wausau). The last time we had a record low during the Winter was in 1996. Not only were there no record lows (in Wausau) during the Winter, there were no record lows (in Wausau) for the entire year. In the category no records, there were also no record warm low temperatures and no record cold high temperatures. Record high temperatures were a different story. We broke or tied new daily records (in Wausau) on 6 different occasions:
- 50 on February 13th
- 90 on June 3rd
- 94 on June 7th
- 93 on June 8th
- 80 on October 8th (tie)
- 79 on October 10th (tie)
We had 4 days (in Wausau) with daily record precipitation:
- 0.89 inches on March 22nd
- 1.38 inches on April 10th
- 1.57 inches on July 19th
- 2.43 inches on August 6th
We had 3 different dates with record daily snowfall in Wausau:
- 8.7 inches on February 20th
- 1.9 inches on April 19th
- 3.2 inches on November 9th
The highest temperature of the year was 94. As mentioned earlier this week, this mark was reached (in Wausau) on 4 different occasions; June 7th, July 17th, July18th, and July 20th. The lowest temperature of the year (in Wausau) was -21 on January 21st, however this number is a little suspect. Tony and I noticed that the temperature sensor at the downtown airport in Wausau seemed to be reporting a couple of degrees too low during the middle of January when that low temperature occurred. The sensor was fixed later in the month. Outside of that period the coldest temperature was -17 on February 10th and 11th.
(Update: edited on January 2nd to factor in the last two days of December 2011)
Average High for 2011: 53.03 (normal: 53.06)
Average Low for 2011: 35.07 (normal: 33.7)
2011 Total Precipitation: 35.53 inches (normal: 32.41″)
2011 Total Snowfall: 65.8 inches (normal: 59.6″)
So once again we have a year with above normal temperatures which has been a trend over the last couple of decades. We did have a couple of cold years during the last 2 or 3 decades (real bitter cold in early 1996 in fact), but most years have been above normal. During this time frame, most of the increase in our temperatures has occurred because low temps have been rising. High temperatures have not budged all that much. As I mentioned earlier this week with regards to the humidity, the increase in low temperatures probably has to do with more moisture in the air. The oceans have been getting a little warmer in recent decades and this allows more moisture to evaporate into the air. When the air is more humid, temps do not drop as much during the night. Whether you think the warmer temps over the last 2 or 3 decades is a natural trend or it is due to anthropogenic global warming, it seems the trend, in general, continued in 2011. The global forecasts from climatologists have been relatively accurate thus far.
Have a Happy New Year! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on December 30, 2011