Northwestern Wisconsin

Included Counties: 
Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett, Washburn, Sawyer, Polk, Barron, Rusk
Watersheds: 
Bad-Montreal, Beartrap-Nemadji, Eau Claire, Flambeau, Jump, Lake Superior, Lower Chippewa, Lower St. Croix, Namekagon, Red Cedar, South Fork Flambeau, St. Louis, Upper Chippewa, Upper St. Croix

Geography

Wisconsin's Northwest Climate Division is bordered by Lake Superior to the north and Minnesota to the west. It includes Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and cities of Superior and Bayfield. The terrain is covered by a mix of forests and agriculture and is generally flat with some rolling hills.

Overview

The northern sections of Wisconsin Climate Division 1 include the western reach of the Lake Superior "snowbelt" which approximately extends from just west of the Apostle Islands to the eastern end of Lake Superior.  A broad ridge that rises from northern Wisconsin into Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula encourages the development of the heavy snow squalls observed during the winter months. Lake effects also include modified air temperatures near the lake, keeping them cooler during the late spring and early summer, and warmer during the late fall and early winter.  Farther inland experiences a largely continental climate, driven by the movement of short-term weather patterns. As a result, day-to-day temperature variations are larger in the southern sections farther away from Lake Superior.
 

Changes In Precipitation

In contrast to most of the Great Lakes region and midwestern United States, much of the Lake Superior basin, including northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, has seen decreasing total annual precipitation. The reasons for this subregional decline are unclear. Snowfall totals have appeared to remain relatively stable or increase, with lake effect zones seeing increases over the last several decades.

 in.cm.%
Annual-1.1-2.8-3.50
Winter0.10.33.45
Spring-0.5-1.3-6.64
Summer-2.0-5.2-15.32
Fall1.43.518.24

Linear best-fit changes are calculated over the period 1950-2012. Percentage changes are calculated relative to the 1951-1980 historical reference period.

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Changes In Temperature

Annual average temperatures in Northern Wisconsin have warmed much faster than the national and global rates since the 1950s. Much of this warming is driven by warming during the late winter and early spring. Overnight low temperatures have warmed faster than mid-day highs in most locations.

 °F°C
Annual3.41.9
Winter5.53.0
Spring4.12.3
Summer1.81.0
Fall1.91.1

Linear best-fit changes are calculated over the period 1950-2012. Percentage changes are calculated relative to the 1951-1980 historical reference period.

Seasonal Precipitation

While all seasons have been variable over time, summer precipitation has been most variable (by volume), and has declined sharply over the last 20 years.

Seasonal Temperature

Winter and spring have warmed faster than fall and summer. Warmer springs in the 1980s and warm winters in the early 2000s have significantly affected trends over the last 50 years.