The first couple weeks of 2012 certainly have featured a lot of variety in North Central Wisconsin weather-wise. As the clock struck midnight on January 1st, a blast of snow came through, depositing anywhere from 2-5" of accumulation. The chilly weather did manage to stick around for a few days following, but by January 5th, the mercury surged to 43 in Wausau and 42 the next day on the 6th. This relatively mild weather pattern was thanks in large part to the positioning of the northern jet stream across southern Canada. Farther far north, considering it is typically down through the northern tier of the U.S in early January. Thus the air masses that we had coming into Wisconsin were of Pacific origin, which meant relatively moisture starved storm systems and temperatures that were running 10-20 degrees above average.
The warm weather peaked from January 9-11th as record highs were set on both Tuesday & Wednesday in many locations, with daytime readings soaring into the upper 40s and even into the low 50s. In comparison to the mildest of winters in the past, there does seem to usually be a shift to colder times. Sure enough, that transition has started to take place. A cold front pushed across the Badger State on Thursday morning, plunging temperatures into the 10s and 20s, while depositing a fresh 2-5" of snow. At the same time, the aforementioned jet stream in the days ahead will be dropping farther south, allowing for colder air to take aim at the western Great Lakes from time to time.
No less, Wausau has had quite the stretch of relatively warm weather. There have been 5 weeks in a row with at least 1 day of highs making it into the 40s from mid-December through the 2nd week of January. Looking back at the recording books, this could be the first time that has happening during this time of the year in over 70 years. Granted there was a similar scenario in the winter of 1979-80 and also back in 1938-39 during the same time frame. However, those streaks only topped out at 3 or 4 weeks when the mercury hit 40 at least once. Climatologically, January through mid-February is the coldest time of the year and that frigid air that has been building up across the Arctic Circle & northern Canada will attempt to surge in our way in the weeks ahead. The tricky parts are exactly how long any one cold streak could last and if any big storms will impact us prior to it's arrival.
Time will tell, but it is safe to say that temperatures which have been nearly 12 degrees above average in Wausau and 11 degrees above in Rhinelander through January 11th are going to be adjusting downward. The warmer winter coat and the shovel should once again get a work out as we are nearing the midpoint of the winter season.
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