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Fall frost? Not anytime soon

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

JANESVILLE—We are not anywhere near to setting a record for the latest fall frost.

But with the National Weather Service predicting another week of warmish days and mild nights, we should write a story about it to prepare our readers for any record-late-frost celebrations they want to organize.

We're kidding, of course. Nobody celebrates record late frosts except for newspaper editors, who thrive on record weather events, and people selling flower bulbs.

The Gazette has been keeping weather records since 1948 and writing weather stories since the first reporter chiseled “partly cloudy” onto a stone slab.

Here's what our records say:

-- Janesville's record late frost was in 2016, when freezing temperatures didn't arrive until Nov. 11. Runner up is 1973, when the first frost was Nov. 3.

-- The record for earliest fall frost is Sept. 20 in 1956. Runners up include several years when the first frost was on Sept. 22.

-- The majority of first frosts arrive between Oct. 1 and Oct. 20.

-- Rock County's median first frost date is Oct. 7. The National Weather Service in Sullivan puts our median first fall frost dates at Oct. 1 to Oct. 10.

To beat our latest-first-frost record, we'd need more than three weeks of good weather.

Is that possible?

“We're not seeing anything on the horizon right now,” said Sean Miller, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sullivan. "I think the coldest night in the next several days is tonight (Monday) and that's only in the low 40s.”

That's the short-term forecast.

The National Weather Service also issues predictions for six to 10 days out and eight to 14 days out.

Those predictions are based on probabilities, not certainties, Miller said.

“In the six-to-10-day outlook, we're looking at a 70 percent chance that temperatures will be above average,” Miller said. “That doesn't mean that there couldn't be one cold night in there.”

For the eight-to-14-day outlook, chances are about equal of temperatures being normal to slightly warmer than average.

The warmer weather offers several upsides.

Plants are still showing to their best advantage at Rotary Botanical Gardens. On Monday, workers were getting ready for the Holiday Light Show, weaving strings of lights around branches full of leaves.

Flowering plants are still going strong, and the gardens are full of color, said Mark Dwyer, director of horticulture at the gardens.

Another garden-related benefit: Spring flower bulbs are starting to go on sale, and it will take a several hard frosts before the ground is too frozen for planting. Perennials can be planted in the fall, as well.

Finally, these are the conditions Midwesterners refer to as “good sleeping weather.” Warm fall days followed by cool nights that allow you to sleep with a window open just a crack. You wake up in a room that's pleasantly cool with the air carrying the faint scent of autumn.

So plant your bulbs and get your rest.

That way, when those record-late-frost celebrations start, you'll be ready to party.



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