Six Pix for 2/26/06

SIX PIX FOR 2/26/06

From: Karen Schreiber
from Foxhome, MN

I’m sure you’ll agree that Karen captured a great picture a little over a week ago during a sunny mid-morning along the Ottertail River just south of Foxhome, MN. I’m sure many people this day didn’t go outside at all in the morning as this was the coldest morning of the year so far – with temperatures around -20. So while I say, "Thanks for the great picture," I also must commend you for braving the cold weather for our enjoyment!

Thanks for the great picture Karen!

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

or email

Six Pix for 2/19/06

SIX PIX FOR 2/19/06

From: Rick Stenerson
from Fargo, ND

WOW! What a picture… I even had to say tonight during the ten o’clock news that anything I’ve ever made out of snow is an embarassment compared to this! I couldn’t get an exact location of where this picture was taken – but if you happen to know – let me know. With this monster sitting in the front yard of an area house, I imagine that many neighbors and people driving by got a kick out of this great snow creation.

Thanks for the great picture Rick!

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

or email

The Sounds of Winter

To steal part of a song phrase from Simon and Garfunkel,  have you ever listened to the sound of winter?   The colder the air temperature, the denser the air.  Sound waves are more "efficient" in dense air.   Plus, cold air is usually associated with inversions (the air warms as you go up) which also helps sound travel to your ears better.  You see, sound waves tend to be dispersed in all directions, but with a strong inversion, the sound waves will be forced to travel more horizontally as the inversion keeps the sound waves from moving upward into the warmer air.  So if you combine these two factors, you tend to hear things a bit better in colder weather.

In the summer I can barely hear the trains going through Fargo, in the winter I have no problem hearing them and when it’s below zero, the train whistle will actually wake me up occasionally.  Two things comes in to play with that example, number one is the cold dense air and the associated inversion as previously mentioned, but also in the winter we lose a lot of our sound absorbers, that being,  plants, bushes and trees and their corresponding vegetation.

So if your friends down south ask if you are surviving the cold, just tell them you can "hear them well".  😉

Getting It Right

   The recent light snow event of February 6-7 was not particularly well forecasted by our office. The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks missed it, too. "Flurries" was the forecast, later changed to "very light snow." We ended up getting about two and a half inches of dry, fluffy, airy snow. As snow events go, this one was a weenie one. But it was clearly more than flurries.

  We missed it.

  The fact is, we weather forecasters almost never get the forecast exactly right and, on occasion, we miss badly. This is nothing new.  However, the reason for the errors is not that we are an incompetent lot. Weather forecasting is hard. It’s about about predicting the future of a highly-dynamic, non-linear system using limited observations of initial conditions including a lot of remote sensing techniques. The goal of a weather forecaster has never been to be exactly right. The goal is to be close enough to be useful to the public.

   And I think we are, most of the time.

Record January

As most of you may have heard by now, January was the warmest on record in both Grand Forks and Fargo (records go back to 1881 in Fargo). The average temperature last month at Hector Int’l was 23.5 degrees which was 16.7 degrees above average. As a matter of fact, I could not find another month in the record books that had temperatures that far above average, so it was seasonally very warm.

Here is the new Top Ten list of warmest January’s in Fargo/Moorhead:

1 23.5 2006
2 21.8 1990
3 21.1 1944
4 19.6 1931
5 18.2 1987
6 18.0 1942
7 17.4 1958
8 17.3 1992
9 16.5 2002
10 16.1 1983

Why was it so warm last month? Two main reasons, first, it was a very cloudy month. Clouds act as a blanket keeping the temperature from falling much at night and we woke up to temperatures in the 10s and 20s most of the month (with average HIGHS being in the teens). Second, the upper-level winds generally blew from west to east (in meteorology we refer to that as a “zonal flow”) bringing in mild Pacific air into much of the United States.

As mentioned, Grand Forks (both the in town and Airport data) also had the warmest January on record. At the Grand Forks Int’l Airport the average temperature was 21.3 degrees or 16 degrees above average. Here is the new top ten list of warmest January’s at Grand Forks Int’l.

1 21.3 2006
2 18.7 1990
3 17.7 1944
4 16.2 1983
5 16.1 1992
6 15.9 1942
7 15.7 1958
8 15.0 1987
9 13.9 2002
10 13.9 2001

Most of North America was seasonally warm with the exception of interior Alaska. Fairbanks, Alaska had their coldest January since 1971, plus that was their coldest month since December 1980. The warmest temperature in Fairbanks in January was just +6 degrees.

If one area in the northern hemisphere is warm, it is almost certain that someone is cold. So far this winter much of Europe and Asia have seen a very cold winter. Moscow has had their coldest winter in 21 years. Some areas have experienced all-time record cold temperatures. So if the pattern would change, we still have plenty of winter left to get cold, but in the short term, the coldest it will get is just for temperatures to drop to near average over the course of the next few days.