Cold Enough For Arctic Sea Smoke

It was the coldest morning in over two years. Milwaukee dropped to -5. Waukesha was -11. It was cold enough to create something that is known as “arctic sea smoke.”  A big thank you to Doris of Mequon who added her photo of the sea smoke this morning on ulocal. You can find hundreds of great weather pictures at ulocal on

Arctic sea smoke is another term for steam fog created in the Great Lakes. It occurs when you have very cold air, usually below zero, moving over the open waters of the Great Lakes. The cold air picks up moisture from the lake and the steam fog forms. This continues to flow along the open water gaining more and more moisture. This can be the beginning of lake-effect snow. It is fascinating to watch this because it looks like the fog dances across the water. Try to take a look the next time we have a frigid air mass.

So how cold was it? Here are the lows across SE Wisconsin this morning.

No matter where you were temperatures dropped below zero. The coldest spot in our area was -17 in Reeseville in Dodge County. Around the state the coldest was Minong, west of Hayward. The temperature dropped to -37. The coldest temperature in the United States was in International Falls. The low this morning was -46 degrees. That did not include the wind chill. Our wind chills were between 20 and 30 below. Our temperatures are dropping like a rock this evening thanks to the clear skies and light winds. We will likely go below zero this evening before warming up as the night goes on.

The forecast for the NFC Championship in Chicago is still looking pretty good. Temperatures will be in the low to mid 20s with mostly cloudy skies. Winds still look to be fairly light. East at 5 to 15 miles per hour.

Thanks to “aronasoc” for the Packers snowman to ulocal. Go Pack Go!



4 Responses

  1. Hi, WW 12 Pals!

    Madison radio WOLX is calling for 2-4″ of snow on Monday. I don’t put a lot of trust in radio forecasts, but I place all my trust in the WW 12 Team. So, I’m wondering, how much snow is REALLY in the offing for Monday? I’m pondering being on the road for most of the day, so am wondering what, if any effect, the snow will have on travel, or do you advise waiting until Tuesday to “make my rounds”?

    Don in Reeseville

    • Don,

      I may be bad to ask because I will drive around in about any type of weather and do not have 4WD. So driving in snow I always say is up to the individual. I certainly think an inch or two is possible Monday. We’ll put some official totals out in our newscasts either later today or Sunday morning. I just did radio here and said an inch or two. That looks like a good starting point right now.


    • Another thing is that the snow totals could be different in Madison versus Milwaukee. A lot of systems this year have tracked where the snow totals end up higher in the western part of the state.

      • Daniel,

        All part of the pattern. Look at where the active part of the pattern has shifted to from the second half of November into December. Remember Minneapolis had record snow? Some of those systems kept clipping southwest Wisconsin. Now with the colder air in the place, the storm track has dropped farther south, but still in the same long term longwave. Areas like Kansas City can’t escape the snow this month! They have already had 2 6″+ storms this month…pretty unusual for that area.


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