How Long Will the Snow Last?

April 20, 2012 5 Comments

I asked a couple of days ago about June snow in Wisconsin and I am surprised no one had a story to share. Ray did bring up some old winter folklore which I have heard as well – that the “snow drifts were up to the top of the telephone poles” – and “every winter it got down to 40 below”. These stories do have a basis of truth but are also a bit exaggerated. Colder winter-time temps were a reality in the latter part of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s, but we did not have 40 below every winter. In fact, the temperature has only officially reached -40 in Wausau on 3 different occasions, once in 1899, once in 1948, and once in 1951. Now, if you were living around the area in the late 1940s through the 1950s, it probably seemed like the temperature got that cold every winter, but it didn’t. We tend to remember the most extreme and emotional things from our past and forget the less exciting stuff. So there were more occasions with bitter cold in the past, but it did not occur every year.

As far as the blizzards go, there were some doozies in the past, but again, the snow was not up to the telephone poles every winter. At least with a couple of the past snowstorms we do have some photographic evidence of the events. At the historical society of Marathon county they have some pictures of drifts as high as railroad cars. As for the telephone poles, we should remember that the poles were a bit shorter back in the day.

Overall, I am sure most people are happy with the more mild Winters we have experienced in the last 2 or 3 decades. The last time we had -30 in Wausau was in February of 1996. Most winters lately have some stretches of cold weather but in the city it seems we only get down to around -20 or so. Some of that has to do with the urban heat island effect, but some is due to the climate getting a bit warmer as well.

We might not have any stories about snow in June but we have a new story about snow in April. Just last night 1 to 3 inches of the white stuff fell in parts of the area. I measured just over an inch on my car this morning. The snowfall made it look like Granite Peak might be open for business again soon. The slopes were all white this morning – perhaps making people re-think their predictions for the 2012 Snowmelt Contest (with prizes provided by the R-stores of NorthCentral Wisconsin). Not to worry. After the inch or so of snow melts off the slopes today, the patches that remain are quite small. You still have until next Friday (the 27th) to get your entry in. Whenever you feel like entering, the easiest way is to use the entry form here: Don’t post your prediction here in the blog. I see a couple predictions have come in to the comment section so far and I will enter them into the contest manually (no worries) but it is much better if you use our website form for the contest.

I usually do not make my prediction until the entry period has closed in order to not influence things too much, but I will make a guarantee. The snow will not last until June 24th – the latest snowmelt date we have ever had with the contest. That might not help a whole lot but it is the most you will get out of me for now.

CPC Temp Trend For May

What would help the snow stick around a while longer would be some colder weather – which I know a lot of you are NOT hoping for. The weather will stay colder than normal this weekend but should rise a little above normal (highs in the 60s) for the middle of next week. What about May? Well, the CPC has released the latest monthly outlooks and Wisconsin finds itself in the “equal chances” (or EQ) category, meaning an equal chance of having above or below normal precipitation or temperatures. No major trend is being picked up by the computer models. If you click through the other months in the outlook you will find that it stays that way for temps and precip through the Summer, then a greater chance of above normal temperatures develops for the Fall and into the Winter. So for those of you who might be worried that it is going to be a long, hot, humid, Summer because the temps started out so warm in March, at least the computer models are not picking up on anything like that so far. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, just that we don’t have any good indications whether temps will skew warmer or cooler this Summer.

Have a nice Friday, Meteorologist Justin Loew.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Jeff Boyne says:

    EC in the CPC outlooks does not mean that there is equal chances for above and below. Their forecasts are actually based off of terciles. They take the last 30 years and then break them into three categories (10 warmest, 10 coldest, and the remaining 10 are near normal). An EC forecast actually means that any of the three possibilities could occur.

  2. jloew says:

    Hey Jeff: Thanks for the explanation. Someone in the past had explained to me that it meant equal chances of above or below. Do you have a link to share, at the CPC website perhaps, that explains the EC and other percentages. I had read through some of that before, but must have came out with an errant understanding.

  3. Melissa Marshall says:

    Hi Justin, because of my gardening itch, I am trying to track down a place that can tell me whether or not to expect frost each night in the Wausau area. Should I just keep an eye on temperature and cover my plants if it is expected to be around 32 deg.? We don’t always get the frost advisory when the temps drop, so are there other factors?

  4. jloew says:

    Hi Melissa:

    The best way would be to keep track of the 7-day outlook on our webpage. The low we forecast is for within the city limits. If you live on the outskirts, then you might have a little colder temps once in a while. I would be sure to cover any sensitive plants (or bring them in) anytime you see 34 or 35 on the 7-day outlook, just to be safe.

  5. Melissa Marshall says:

    thanks, Justin!

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