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The Daily


Madison on the brink of impressive snow record for December 2008
How snow can you go

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The approach of Christmas Eve -- and still more imminent storms -- heightens the temptation to talk about the weather this December in biblical terms. As of Monday morning, the National Weather Service Milwaukee/Sulllivan office was reporting 30.1 inches of snowfall on Madison for the first three weeks of the month. That's well ahead of the pace observed during last year's seasonal snow record, when a mere 23.6 inches had fallen over the same period.

The NWS daily summary for December 21 in Madison also notes that the seasonal total for 2008 is likewise ahead of the 2007 pace. So far this winter, 34.4 inches of snow have fallen on Mad City. That's almost 10 inches more than the 25.1 that fell through Dec. 21, 2007. To see what this looks like in chart form, check out the NWS comparisons here.

A winter weather advisory is in effect on Tuesday, with light snow falling overnight and an additional accumulation of several inches expected through the day. An overlapping winter storm watch is scheduled to take effect late Tuesday and extend through Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, with still another four to five inches of snow forecast for that period. Total projection for Madison between now and Christmas Eve: nine to 11 inches.

This puts the city on the brink of its snowiest December on record, with figures dating back to 1871. The record: 35 inches, measured between December 1-31, 2000. Adding the nine to 11 inches of snow forecast between now and Christmas Eve to the 30.1 inches that have fallen since the beginning of December, and we're looking at snowfall totals in the neighborhood of 40 inches for the month -- with another full week to go before we turn the page from into the new year.

This is great news for skiers and snowshoe enthusiasts, kids with sleds, people who like to shovel and anyone else who subscribes to the notion that as long as it's going to be cold outside, there might as well be plenty of snow to enjoy. Not so great for iceboaters and ice-skating enthusiasts. But if everyone was happy all at once, life might be so enjoyable we wouldn't be able to bear all that good fortune.

To put this in perspective, the devoted people at the NWS have compiled a long list of short facts about Christmas Eve weather in Milwaukee and Madison. Among the Madison highlights:

  • Greatest snowfall total observed for Madison on the day before Christmas since record-keeping started 138 years ago: 7.5 inches, measured in 1918.

  • Greatest snow depth on the ground in Madison on Christmas Eve: 16 inches, measured in 1985 and again in 2000. (As of the NWS summary for Madison on December 21, the snow depth was sitting at 14 inches -- putting the record well within reach if the forecasts for the next couple days hold true.)

  • The normal high temperature for Madison on the eve of Christmas is 28 degrees, the normal low 13.

  • The record high temperature for Madison on the day before Christmas: 60 degrees, in 1889.

  • The record low temperature for Madison on Christmas Eve: minus-28, recorded in 1872.

  • Number of times in the last 138 years when the high temperature in Madison on the day before Christmas has reached at least 30 degrees: 69 (50%).

  • Number of times in the last 138 years when the high temperature in Madison on the day before Christmas has failed to exceed zero degrees Fahrenheit: three.

There's much more to this National Weather Service collection of weather facts for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Milwaukee and Madison. Commit them all to memory so you can impress your friends and neighbors while you're out enjoying all the snow.

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