Our Warmest Record Lows

The period of record for Fargo Moorhead weather is 135 years from 1881 to the present.  So for each day of the year, there are 135 different examples.  Over the entire calendar, the warmest daily record low is 46 degrees set twice on July 25, 1900, and July 27, 1971.  So there is no single date in the calendar in which the temperature in Fargo Moorhead has not reached at least 46 degrees.

Over the entire summer, there are just 46 dates on which the temperature has never fallen below 40 degrees within the period of record.  The majority of these dates are in July.  In fact, there are only four record lows below 40 degrees for July.  These are July 1, 2001 at 39; July 3, 1967, and 36; July 4, 1967, at 37; and July 30, 1971, at 39.

Tornadoes Are Not All Alike

Not all tornadoes are the same.  There can be very weak tornadoes which produce winds of only around 60 mph, not much stronger than one might fine in a large dust devil.  The strongest tornadoes can produce winds of around 300 mph which are capable of destroying all but specially designed, tornado-proof structures.

The most common tornadoes are nearer to the lower end of this spectrum, with wind speeds ranging between 80 and 120 mph. Such storms are, obviously, capable of doing major damage, but the really violent, top-end tornadoes are truly monstrous by comparison.

Severe thunderstorm winds also vary greatly.  A typical, non-severe thunderstorm might produce brief 20-40 mph wind gusts along its leading gust front.  On occasion, straight line winds from a powerful thunderstorm can reach speeds of more than 120 mph.  Such straight line winds are capable of doing as much damage as the most common tornadoes.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


Solving a Water Problem

During a recent multi-year drought, the people of the arid nation of Israel figured out a way to solve its water problems.  By using the most modern desalinization techniques and by recycling urban and agricultural waste water, Israel has reduced its need for fresh water by half.

According to an article by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times, five new desalinization plants will soon be creating 200 billion gallons of drinkable water a year.  More than 85 per cent of this domestic water is recycled and reused for agriculture.  These processes are expensive, but water is a precious commodity, especially in a desert nation.

California, which has its own share of water shortage problems, is making some attempts as desalinization, but the projects are controversial because of the cost.  Ultimately, as populations grow, desalinization and recycling water may prove to be the best solutions for some areas.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Event Planning and Forecasting

It is a growing trend for events to be cancelled for impending weather and then the weather turns out fine.  People are genuinely more concerned about public safety and more aware of the dangers of bad weather.  But there also seems to be a trend toward calling off events too early based on a forecast without truly understanding the forecast.  A forecast calling for storms, possibly severe, on a certain day, does not mean there will be severe storms everywhere all day long.

There seems to be a growing expectation that forecasters can predict weather precisely hour-by-hour and there must be weather forecasters out there who are willing to make such a forecast.  The commonly used defense is that we are “better safe than sorry” but this is, perhaps, a weak argument.  Cars can be dangerous but we still drive them.  Many people fall on stairs but they are not outlawed.

And likewise, it is possibly better to wait a little longer before cancelling some outdoor events because of a weather forecast.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


Century Scorchers

The last time it was 100 degrees in Fargo Moorhead (officially) was July 20, 2012.  Century days are not that common here and are far more likely during dry summers than in wet summer because of the ability for dry soil to get hot in the sun.

A quick scan of all the daily record highs shows that 100 degree days are most common in July and August.  All but nine of the days in July carry a record high of at least 100.  All but ten of the days in August have a peak day of at least 100.  There are only seven June dates with a record high of 100.  There are four in September and one each in May and April.

The earliest 100 degree day was April 21, 1980, and the latest was 101 on September 21, 1936.  The hottest record high (and, therefore, the all-time record high) is 114 degrees set July 6, 1936.  The North Dakota state record of 121 degrees was set that same day in Steele.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


The Opposite of January

July is the peak summer month and the apex of the average temperature graph here in the Northern Plains.  On average, our hottest time of the year is at the end of July and the beginning of August.  Of course, in any given summer, our hottest weather can happen at any time during the summer owing to the natural random variability of weather.

It is not the same everywhere, however.  Across the deserts of the American Southwest, the hottest temperatures are more often in June, before the hot temperatures begin to draw humidity in from the Gulf of Baja.  In Texas, the hottest days are usually in August, when the ground has become parched a summer’s worth of evaporation.  Along coastal areas of California and Oregon, the so-called Santa Ana winds bring the hottest weather of the year from the deserts up and over the Coast Ranges during September and October.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


July Is the Peak

July is to summer weather what January is to winter.  It is the pinnacle.  It is the hottest month of the year, on average.  For the month, the average high temperature is 82.5 degrees and the average low is 59.5 degrees.  (These numbers are cool compared to most places in the United States, of course.)

The peak of the average temperature is actually at the end of July into early August.  The most notoriously hot heat wave in our history happened in July of 1936, when it was 100 degrees or hotter for eight straight days.

July can be either wet or dry, owing in a large part to the frequently heavy but usually widely scattered thunderstorms we tend to get in mid-summer.  Average rainfall in July is 2.79 inches, down significantly from the 3.90 inch average in June.  July is, by far, the sunniest month of the year.  On average, there are 10.1 sunny days, 13.4 partly cloudy days, and only 8.1 cloudy days in July

Complaints About Humidity

It takes a lot for most people to call or email a broadcast meteorologist to complain about the weather.  Everybody knows we don’t actually create the stuff.  Yet people do, from time to time, call with an angry tone to find out when a particular weather pattern will change.

Interestingly enough, it is not our bitter winter wind chills that bring out the worst in the weather complainers.  Even when the Wind Chill factor is down into the minus 40s, people seem to just deal with it.  However, as soon as we get a couple of days of hot and sticky humidity, a lot of people’s inner crabbiness is set free.

I get more complaints about high humidity than any other kind of weather.  “When is this disgusting humidity going away?”  “Can’t you do something about this awful weather, please?”  Unfortunately, our climate has been getting warmer in winter and more humid in summer.  And for a lot of people in our region, this is the worst news possible.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Hot Summer in Alaska

Alaska is having a hot summer, relatively speaking.  Temperatures across the 49th State have been consistently in the 70s and 80s this month across all but the North Slope and western areas adjacent to the Bering Sea.

There are two primary reasons for the early summer heat wave.  A lack of snow this past winter has resulted in a significant drying of Alaska’s normally marshy soil.  Plus, the weather pattern has favored warm temperatures.  A lack of rain is accompanying this northern heat wave, creating a concern that this could be a very bad year for forest fires.

The warm temperatures are probably welcome to many Alaskans, many of whom endure winters much longer and, at least, as cold as ours.  But few Alaska homes and businesses are built with air conditioning.  Most of the time, unusual weather, even pleasantly unusual weather, tends to create problems for those who live through it.

Northern Lights

We have been treated to some spectacular Northern Lights displays this week. The auroras around and after midnight Monday night were among the best and brightest in our area in several years.

Auroras are the product of high-energy particles from the sun reacting with gas molecules in Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing them to glow.  Auroras are usually concentrated near Earth’s north and south magnetic poles due to the influence of the magnetic field.  This is why most auroras in our area are seen as a rather distant glow in the northeastern sky.

Monday night’s brilliant and colorful display was the result of a powerful solar storm.  On even rarer occasions, stronger solar storms have been known to disrupt radio transmissions and interfere with electrical grids.  It is possible for a solar storm to be so strong to cause significant damage to the world’s electrical grids.  The most famous of these, in 1859, caused telegraph lines to spark and the Northern Lights to be seen in the Caribbean.

Meteorologist John Wheeler