MADISON (WKOW)-- At the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies on UW campus, researchers are intrigued by the coldest polar air we've seen in nearly twenty years.
"1994 and 1996 were the last two big cold events that we've had here in Wisconsin," weather researcher Jordan Gerth says. "We really made it through much of the 2000's without much of anything up until now."
Gerth is a postdoctoral research associate who is an expert on weather patterns in Wisconsin and the Great Lakes region. He says only 20 other times since 1865 has there been this many days in a row in Wisconsin with temperatures lower than negative ten degrees.
The polar air that came south, experts are calling the "Polar Vortex," happens every so often, but rarely does it come this far south and rarely do temperatures heat up again so quickly.
"We've had a big change from -16 degrees to 33 degrees now," Gerth says.
It certainly was a week of ups and downs weather wise here in Wisconsin. Starting out on Saturday with one of the most gorgeous days we've had all season. A lot of people got outside to enjoy the weather, but starting Sunday night the weather became extremely cold with wind chills in the negative 30's and 40's. That cold stretch lasted until late Tuesday night.
On Wednesday and Thursday things started to warm up. On Friday the warmer temps hovered around 32 degrees and caused freezing rain during the evening commute. Drivers experienced slippery roads as dozens of cars slipped into the ditch. On Saturday, the weather went full circle as temperatures rose to the point they were back before the cold snap hit.
That's what happened last week, but what about the weeks ahead?
"We're kind of scratching our heads as to, is it going to be above normal or average? We are going to continue to see these shots of cold air coming down out of Canada. There's lot of questions we have right now," Gerth says. "A lot of it depends on what comes out of the Pacific ocean area."
For many Wisconsinites the season feels like it has dragged on forever, but only a few weeks in there's plenty more cold to go around. Experts say it's too early to tell if the winter will be longer or shorter than normal. They do however believe that the rest of January will be filled with fluctuating temperatures. There's the possibility of seeing highs in the 40's quickly followed by temps in the single digits.
Weather researchers say the long term effects of the extreme cold should be minimal in the months to come. There was the concern about the frozen ground affecting farmers and growers this upcoming season, but researchers say the thick layer of snow helped to insulate the ground and kept out most of the cold.
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