Weather

Could climate change cause more freezing rain in southern Wisconsin's future?

MADISON, Wis. - On average, the date in Madison where we’re more likely to see snow versus rain is Nov. 18. 

The snow on the way this weekend is coming at a normal time.
However, the freezing drizzle threat across southern Wisconsin is anything but normal, and it could be a precursor of what’s to come down the road.

The ingredients for freezing rain are sensitive to individual storm systems, so these events are a bit difficult to discuss on a climatological level. However, UW-Madison meteorology professor Jon Martin said that as the planet warms, we'll find ourselves on the fence in regards to temperatures.

“Southern Wisconsin temperatures will more commonly fall between cold enough to snow but not cold enough to get deep snow,” Martin explained. 

Unfortunately, that is a perfect recipe for mixed precipitation, which Wisconsin isn't used to fighting. 

“I don't think Mother Nature dishes out a more menacing sensible weather element than freezing rain, Martin said. “It can sneak up on you. You can have a long period of a street or sidewalk that somehow doesn’t succumb to freezing ice, and then suddenly you hit a spot that does, and you can't see it coming.”
Martin said car accidents and power outages will go up dramatically if Wisconsin ends up experiencing more freezing rain in the future.

Typically, freezing rain is more common across Kentucky and Tennessee. Some areas in southern Illinois and Indiana can also experience freezing rain from time to time. However, Martin says that threat could move farther north over the next few decades.
Luckily, the impacts from this round of freezing drizzle across southern Wisconsin look to be relatively minor, with some slick spots possible. 

Martin also said this is the first time he remembers talking about potential freezing rain in Wisconsin in November.


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