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Monday, June 24, 2024
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Memorial Union terrace photographed Fall 2023.

Freshmen guide to Wisconsin weather: What to pack for your first semester

New to Madison? Factor weather into your packing list.

Madison’s weather patterns are shifting, with warmer nights and increased precipitation becoming the new normal. The city experienced an average of eight additional inches of precipitation annually since 2011 compared to the 1980s. 

Understanding the region’s evolving climate is crucial for new students preparing to embark on their academic journey at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The transition from warm autumn days to harsh winter months presents unique challenges. Still, with proper preparation informed by science, first-year students can thrive throughout their first semester.

Learning Wisconsin’s weather trends

Wisconsin’s climate is characterized by its variability, with distinct seasonal changes throughout the year. But recent decades have seen notable shifts in weather patterns influenced by broader climate change trends.

The warmer nights and increased precipitation in Madison are part of this larger trend, impacting daily life and necessitating adjustments in how residents and newcomers prepare for each season.

September: balancing warmth and coolness

September in Madison offers a mix of summer heat and early autumn coolness. Freshmen should pack shorts, short sleeves and lightweight jackets to navigate the fluctuating temperatures. Long, breathable pants are also a practical option for comfort throughout the day.

“Layering is key,” UW-Madison rising senior Linnea Teske told The Daily Cardinal. “Madison’s weather can definitely change quickly.”

October and November: preparing for the chill

As autumn progresses, temperatures in Madison begin to drop, signaling the approach of winter. Freshmen should start incorporating warmer clothing, including long sleeves, sweaters and light coats or jackets. 

"Coming from California, I wasn't really sure what to think about Madison and packing for it so far as weather goes. I knew it was cold, but I didn't realize how much it would vary," said Mahati Kotamraju, a rising sophomore at UW-Madison.

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Additionally, it’s advisable to pack hats, gloves and scarves to stay comfortable during brisk autumn mornings and evenings.

"Be sure to bring plenty of comfy clothes for the in-between weather and in general — you'll wear them more than you might think," said Kotamraju.

December: embracing winter’s full force

December marks the arrival of winter in Madison, bringing with it freezing temperatures and snow. Freshmen should equip themselves with long sleeves, sweaters and insulated outerwear such as hooded, windproof coats or parkas. Thick, warm joggers or winter jeans work best for bottom wear. 

“Madison winters are as intense as your final exams,” Kotamraju said.

Each season in Madison brings its own charm and challenges, offering a unique backdrop to the college experience. Embrace the variety and make the most of what each season has to offer–from the vibrant autumn leaves to the serene winter snowscapes. With the right preparation, Madison’s ever-changing weather will become a cherished part of first-year students’ time at Madison.

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