Winter arrived just in time for the holiday season yesterday, as daytime rain and sleet turned into evening snow, falling well into the night in a broad swath across southern Wisconsin. Madison officially received 1.3 in. of snow over the course of Wednesday, with flurries continuing into the early morning hours of Thanksgiving. It was the first measurable snowfall of the winter.
Overall snow measurements varied slightly across Dane County, with totals ranging from 1.0 to 2.4 in. None of these figures compare to the record amount of 4.2 in. that was set in 1945. The precipitation did provide for the first white Thanksgiving in Madison in quite some time, though.
"Records show that there has been at least one inch of snow on the ground on 13 Thanksgiving days," notes the National Weather Service in a factsheet on the holiday's climactic history over the 57 years that snow depth records have been measured. There's been none over the last decade, though, excepting a trace level seen in 2000. Snowfall on Thanksgiving itself is even more rare, occurring in less than 10% of the holidays over the last 127 years, though the trace levels like those seen early this morning have been seen another 20% of the time.
The snow that is on the ground is likely to melt quickly with above freezing temperatures and at least party sunny skies forecast through the weekend.
In fact, the winter outlook released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last week suggests there's a better than even chance that the 2007-08 winter season will be warmer than normal in south-central Wisconsin. It may also be snowier too, with above average precipitation predicted for the Great Lakes region. Both are attributed by the forecasters to La Niña conditions in the Pacific Ocean.
More information about the history of snowfall levels in Madison (and Milwaukee) since the late 19th Century is provided in a statement issued by the National Weather Service. Will this winter be the first of this decade with total snowfall over 60 inches?