Torrid Madison

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Photo by John Kreissler, courtesy of UW–Madison Archives

An image of frolicking on Picnic Point (as these young women are doing in a photo dated August 1960) may seem inappropriate to share in wintertime, but then very little about Madison’s winter has been appropriate this year. The UW’s hometown had an unusually warm season, defying expectations of severe cold and heavy snow.

How unusual was the warmth? Madison’s December averaged nearly eight degrees above normal, and its January averaged six degrees above normal. The ice on Lake Mendota didn’t close up until January 14, tying (with the winters of 1889–90 and 1999–2000) for second-latest initial freeze. (The record for the latest freeze was January 30, set in the winter of 1931–32.)

The UW has been keeping track of Lake Mendota’s ice since 1853, giving a good indication of how harsh or mild Madison’s winters have been during the last century and a half. Check the record out at the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. The department does not, alas, list statistics on the number of sundresses seen at Picnic Point. (Get a bird’s-eye view of the Point in Scene.)

Published in the Spring 2012 issue

Tags: Campus history, Student life, Winter

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