Moving Up

Considering how warm it’s been this winter and that fact that we seem to be on track for the warmest January on record,  you may not have noticed, but our average high and low temperatures are now starting to increase.   Last week the average high and low were 15 and -3, they are now at 17 and -1.

I always look forward to this time of year knowing you have bottomed out and temperatures are on the increase.  Granted, often February and even March bring bitterly cold temperatures to the valley, but knowing the averages are increasing always makes those months easier to take (at least to those of us that like the warmer side of our climate).

The one thing that you’ve probably noticed for sure, especially if you drive home around 5:00 PM is our sunset times have increased by around 40 minutes.  Sunset is now close to 5:20, up from 4:38 PM in the middle of December.  Although, sunrise times haven’t changed much (only around 10 minutes), you’ll be noticing a rapid increase in morning light over the next few weeks.

Six Pix for 1/22/06

SIX PIX FOR 1/22/06


From: Stan Goldade
from Breckenridge, MN

So far, I’ve seen streets, trees, signs and vehicles completely covered in ice – but our past winter ice storms continue to amaze me when pictures like this one come in.  Stan sends in this great picture taken in his backyard after this year’s big storm; Cherries encased in their own ice molded covering. 

Thanks for the great picture Stan!

Send in your picture to:
SIX PIX
C/O WDAY Television
Box 2466
Fargo, N.D. 58108

or email jgoldade@wday.com

Global Warming vs. Mild Winter

   Whatever your beliefs may be regarding Global Climate Change, Global Warming, Anthropogenic Warming, or our naturally variable climate, please be careful to consider all arguments out of the context of the current weather pattern. Current weather is always transient and rarely "average," and this can make the bigger picture of climate harder to see.

   We’re having a very mild winter, but it isn’t breaking a lot of temperature records. In Manitoba, our neighbors to the north, they are on a pace to set the record for the warmest winter on record for that province. However, much of Europe and northern Asia are having a very cold winter.

   Here in the Fargo area, we’ve had a trend lately of milder-than-average winters and cooler-than-average summers. Interestingly, most letters and emails sent to me on the subject of "Global Warming" come during the mild winters and the subject seems to fade away when our summers turn cool.

   Of course, this trend could be about to change. Our weather is prone to do such things. Late-winter and spring could be very cold (or not). This coming summer, we could finally have a heat wave and drought again (or not).

   The scientists who study global climate change do so by looking at local weather trends against the background of what’s happening all around the world, and that’s really the only way to do it.

   As far as my own thoughts on climate change go… (a blog response to a previous entry asked) My thoughts on global climate change have not changed at all the last few years. I continue to read the scientific journals to gather information on the subject and the scientific community continues to find reasons to support both sides of the issue: either that greenhouse emissions are greatly affecting the climate or that there is little or no effect.

   It is crucial that we all understand that the idea of human-induced climate change must be considered against the backdrop a naturally variable climate. Our climate has been anything but static in the past. In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that there have been huge and sudden climate shifts in the past which have had a major impact on life on our planet. And so it is genuinely difficult to prove that any current climate change is being caused by people.

   Every new finding that hits the national media (a mild winter, diminishing arctic ice, a bad hurricane season) that suggests it is the result of greenhouse is countered by another finding that suggests it is a natural variation. Unfortunately, these stories are often neglected by the national media because they are less interesting.

   To be fair, the sheer volume of research findings the last few years leans to the concept of global warming as a real threat. However, scientific conclusion is never reached by poll.

   Clearly, the Earth’s climate is warming up. However, how much it is warming up and why it is warming up are simply not understood.

   I have always maintained that our dependency on Middle Eastern oil is a much better reason to reduce fossil fuel consuption that the threat of greenhouse warming.

   And likewise, I have always maintained that natural climate change is a much more real threat that human-induced change.

   Think what you will. It is a fascinating subject. Just please leave the current weather pattern out of the argument. After all, we’ve had warm weather before. No one was talking about global warming in the hot and dusty 1930s!

The Blizzard of ’88

Many blizzards have struck the Great Plains since settlement by Europeans started in earnest in the 1870s, but perhaps none as vicious or life changing as the blizzard that hit the prairie hard on January 12, 1888. Like the death of JFK everyone knew exactly where they were when the roar of the blizzard hit.

The blizzard hit at the worst possible time in many areas. After weeks of bitterly cold weather, temperatures finally climbed above zero and in some locations the temperature even warmed to near freezing on the morning of January 12th. Many rural residents took advantage of the “warm” weather to go into town for some needed supplies, others did some fence work, or allowed the livestock to get out for the first time in days. Getting work done outdoors was the order of the day.

The mild weather also allowed many children to go to school with nothing more than a light jacket or a few layers. Many left without mittens or hats and rejoiced in an easy walk to school that day. That all changed in a moment as a dark gray cloud appear on the northwestern horizon and within minutes the temperature dropped by 20 or more degrees and the visibility dropped to zero as the wind picked up.

There is always talk of zero visibility, but this time the ice crystals in the storm were pulverized to powder by the rolling wind gusting to 70 mph. The prairie became a sea of white stinging ice crystals that made seeing your hand nearly impossible, let alone your house, your school or barn just a few feet away. The storm hit North Dakota, South Dakota and Nebraska in particular at the worst possible times, either as kids were heading to school in North Dakota, at Lunch time in parts of South Dakota or heading home from school in much of Nebraska.

Hundreds of school children we caught in the open, blinded by the snow looking and searching for their school or any shelter. School teachers in other areas were caught between sending their kids home for shelter or staying in a school without enough fuel to keep them warm through the night. Many choose the latter and sent their kids home, many would never make it as they became hopelessly lost in the blinding snow searching in vain for a proverbial needle in a haystack, their small soddy or claim shanty on a prairie that was nothing now but a white wall. Lives were changed forever, time started and ended that day as many would from then on talk of time as before the storm and after the storm. It was a beginning and an end.

Because so many children died in that storm it is often referred to as “The Children’s Blizzard”. As a matter of fact there is a great novel called “The Children’s Blizzard” written by David Laskin that can be bought at the usual locations and perhaps be in your local library. If you like historical novels on life in the prairie (i.e. The Grass of the Earth, etc), you would like this book, although, it is obviously a very sad tale.

Familiar Pattern

The current weather pattern, with mild temperatures tempered only by the fairly deep snowcover, reminds me of the weather in January of 1989.

In that year, the Red River Valley region had very deep snow cover due largely to a record snowstorm early in the month. On January 7-9, Fargo got 24.5" of snow from a single snowstorm. However, the weather soon turned mild. Most of January brought high temperatures in the 20s and 30s, much like what we’re currently getting. Note that our high temperatures would easily be in the 40s and occasionally the 50s this month if we didn’t have such a dense and heavy snowpack to reflect sunlight.

Anyway, while we were basking in relative warmth back in January of 1989, and playing in our deep snow, extreme cold was building across Alaska and the Yukon. At the end of January, that cold air began to move southward.

There were a few aspects of the arctic air intrusion that were memorable. Browning, Montana registered a 100 degree temperature drop in 24 hours as they went from a chinook-warmed temperature in the 70s one day to the 20s below zero the next afternoon. Wow. I also remember that the cold air moved westward across the mountains and invaded the west coast of Oregon and Washingtom with unusally cold, sub-freezing weather.

Here in Fargo, the temperature fell rapidly on January 31 from near freezing to well below zero in just a few hours and the first few days of February brought highs in the -10s and lows near -30. Plus, there was wind.

The cold air only lasted a few days. Later, as the massive high pressure center moved over North Dakota, many weather stations including Fargo reached record high barometric pressure readings.

I’m not saying this is going to happen again this year. Weather never behaves so simply. However, there is some cold air building across Alaska (though not so cold as in 1989) and a piece of that is bound to come sliding southward sometime before spring!

Six Pix for 1/8/06

SIX PIX FOR 1/8/06


From: Mandy Johnson
from Fergus Falls, MN

Doesn’t it seem as though the more devistating the weather conditions become in the winter – the better the pictures of the aftermath are? For example – our first crippling winter ice storm made for another beautiful picture. Mandy Johnson captured this week’s six pix picture from outside of her home in Fergus Falls, MN just after the storm on November 29th, 2005. The trees are glazed over with a thick sheet of ice that is glowing from that morning’s sunrise.

Thanks for the great picture Mandy!

Send in your picture to:
SIX PIX
C/O WDAY Television
Box 2466
Fargo, N.D. 58108

or email jgoldade@wday.com

Six Pix for 1/1/06

SIX PIX FOR 1/1/06


From: Melva & Ellerd Boe
from West Fargo, ND

After a late week holiday storm system passed through the area last week – we were left with very a noticable amount of heavy, slushy snow. This same snow that made traveling very difficult and dangerous on area roads also made for a great picture on December 30th for Melva Boe. It was definitely one of the beautiful sights around town. Add the heavy sticky, snow to a few trees, throw in some christmas lights and a camera… and you get one keeper of a six pix picture!

Thanks for the great picture Melva & Ellerd!

Send in your picture to:
SIX PIX
C/O WDAY Television
Box 2466
Fargo, N.D. 58108

or email jgoldade@wday.com

Top Ten Year

2006 is upon us, so it’s time to look back at 2005. 2005 finished 1.9 degrees above average, which would place 2005 as the 6th warmest on record (records dating to 1881). 2005 wasn’t “warm” in the sense of many of the years in the Top 10 such as 1931, 1987 or 1988, those were “hot summer” years that pushed the average up. No 2005 was actually another in our series of “cool wet summer” years. We really haven’t had anything close to a hot summer in 15 years. But like the past several years 2005 had an above average fall and spring, and a cloudy winter helping push that average into the top ten. Interesting pattern we’ve been in for the past 10 plus years.

Speaking of the past ten years, 2005 was another wet one as most of the 15 past years have been (there are a couple of exceptions). The rain/snow event of just this past week that brought another 0.61″ of liquid to Fargo/Moorhead jumped us over the “magical” 30 inch mark for the year. We finished 2005 with 30.50 inches of rain, fourth wettest on record (we beat 1905 by 0.02″ for #4), which is 9.31 inches above the 30 year average, but nearly a foot above the long term average.

Snow Totals

Quite a strange little snow system that moved through the area last night. The center of the storm was way down over Sioux Falls, SD. It is unusual to get the precipitaion field so far to the north out of a storm that comes out of the northern rockies. Daryl and I were just a little low in our snow forecast for Fargo but did fairly well regionally. Snow fall amounts drop off quickly to the north and go up quickly to the southwest. Here is a list of snow totals form the National Weather Service and from our viewers. We always appreciate snow totals from the public.

LOCATION 24 HOUR SNOWFALL

LISBON ND 9.5
FORT RANSOM (SKI AREA) 9.5

FERGUS FALLS MN 7.0

WAHPETON ND 7.0

WADENA MN 6.5

OTTERTAIL MN 6.0

LIDGERWOOD ND 6.0

SISSETON SD 6.0

FORMAN ND 6.0

VALLEY CITY ND 6.0

PARK RAPIDS MN 6.0

SABIN MN 5.9

PELICAN RAPIDS MN 5.8

ELBOW LAKE MN 5.0

DALTON 3S MN 4.8

FARGO ND 4.7

LAPORTE MN 4.0

TAMARAC WLR MN 4.0

HALSTAD MN 4.0

SE GRAND FORKS ND 3.2

LARIMORE 4SW ND 3.1

THIEF RIVER FALLS MN 3.0

GRAND FORKS NWS ND 2.6

GRAND FORKS AIRPORT 2.4

ARGYLE MN 2.0

COOPERSTOWN ND 2.0

BEMIDJI MN 2.0

DEVILS LAKE KDLR ND 2.0

EDMORE 1NW ND 2.0

VIKING MN 1.5

MAYVILLE ND 1.3
LANKIN 9NW ND 1.3

CAVALIER ND 1.0

LANCASTER MN 1.0

GREENBUSH MN 0.8

HANSBORO ND 0.5