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Weather expert talks hotter summers and what to expect for winter in Milwaukee

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WUWM

It may be hard to believe, but we'll be turning our clocks back this weekend for daylight saving time. For many, it's a reminder that winter is approaching. This year it seems the fall weather took a bit longer to set in with summer temperatures lingering well into October — a trend that has largely defined the last decade.

Clark Evans, an associate professor of atmospheric science at UW-Milwaukee, has been tracking the weather in 2021 and says the warming trend continues in Milwaukee.

“So this summer that we just experienced in 2021 was tied for the second hottest on record here in Milwaukee,” says Evans. “We didn't have quite a level of extreme heat this year but we had quite a few days in the 90s, we had a record number of days in the 80s, a record number of days in the 70s and we are getting close to the record number of days in the 60s.”

When speaking about 2021 being emblematic of this larger trend of hotter summers in the last decade, Evans stated that the data points to global warming as a likely explanation for what might be causing this hotter weather.

“So what we have seen with the temperature in Milwaukee in the last several summers is really a continuation of a longer term trend of upward temperature,” says Evans. "There is reason to believe that it is a climate change related, certainly there are smaller scale forms of variability from weather patterns one year not matching another but by and large it seems to be driven by climate change.”

While the increased heat attributed to climate change is most noticeable in the summertime, Evans explains that barring outliers like a polar vortex, temperatures are also getting hotter in the winter.

“We’ve had several winters where we have had the polar vortex crash down and bring us a prolonged period of colder weather, and it's possible that we see that into the future as well, but on average the winters as a whole are getting warmer,” says Evans.

As for what to expect this winter Evans explains that we are currently in a La Niña cycle and because of this there is a chance of increased snowfall.

“In general, La Niña events tend to be near normal temperature-wise and slightly above normal precipitation-wise,” says Evans. “Here in Milwaukee, that trend is consistent and so we might have a slightly higher chance of seeing slightly more snowfall this winter, but again there is a lot of variation there.”

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