Slicing and Dicing the Numbers Behind Winter in Milwaukee

These are the cold, hard facts.


It sure felt like a long, snowy winter last year, didn’t it? Turns out it was entirely average.

Last year’s total snowfall in MKE was just short of 48 inches – barely up to the rippling pecs of the Milverine – and actually about an inch short of average. We shudder to think of the record winter of 1885-86, when 109.8 inches (9 feet!) of snow fell on Cream City and they didn’t even have Netflix.

This revelation made us wonder how exactly last winter stacked up to years past – and what the worst of it has looked like in Milwaukee. We turned to the data for answers. Here’s what we found.

* Historically, there’s at least 1 inch of snow on the ground in Milwaukee on 55% of the days in December, January and February.

Source: National Weather Service Meteorologist


Maximum ice coverage on Lake Michigan, 2021: 33%

Ice coverage on Lake Michigan varies widely year to year, as low as 12% in 2003 and as high as a record-setting 93% during the polar vortex in 2014. Since records have been kept, the lake has never completely frozen over.


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s December issue.

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