Dry November

Although the last week of November finished quite cold, most
of the month was very mild. The main storm track during the month of November
was well off to our north. That kept
this area in a mild western flow until the last few days of the month. The month finished about four degrees warmer
than the long term average.

For the
second straight year very little snow fell in Fargo Moorhead during the month
of November. Last year we only received 0.2”, even less than the 0.8” reported
this year. Not only did it not snow in November, it also did not rain. The liquid equivalency of our snowfall was
only 0.09” for the entire month.

This
was not a record as only a trace of precipitation fell back in 1999, but it did
make November 2007 the ninth driest since 1881.

Negative

This past Tuesday we had a first below zero reading of the
season.  Coming after a mild weekend it
probably came as quite a shock to most people. 
In the past ten years our first below zero morning has varied from a very
early November 8 in 2003 to a very late December 25 back in 2001. 

Climatologically, the average first day below
zero would be in early December, so we were pretty close to the long term
average on reaching that milestone.  Fargo
Moorhead averages 48 days a winter with temperatures below zero for lows and we
average ten days a year with the high temperature also remaining below zero. 

Other negative statistics would be our area
averaging seven days a winter with lows below -20 and the one stat that no one
probably wants to know about is we average two days per winter with a high of -10
degrees or lower.

After hearing all things negative, hopefully you will have a positive day.

Sub-Freezing

This past Wednesday Fargo Moorhead recorded the first
high temperature below 32 degrees this season.  Over the past 15 years the
average date for this occurrence has been around November 10.  But in our highly
variable climate our first sub-freezing high temperature has varied from October
25 to November 27 since 1992.

It will probably not surprise you to learn that
most years our first sub-freezing high temperature occurred right after our
first snowfall.  The lack of snow so far this snow season allowed us to get a
bit farther into autumn then most years without a day below freezing. 

With
December just around the corner, days with high temperatures below 32 degrees
will become the norm.  We average 96 days a year with a sub-freezing high
temperature which means that most days over the next four months will be spent
below freezing.

Winter Travel

Over the next several months the most asked question in the
weather center will be about road conditions. 
We generally have a very good handle on weather conditions, but road conditions
vary so much across the region that giving specific road conditions for all the
different roads in the area is a nearly impossible task.  

One service that has greatly helped
travelers has been the introduction of the 511 service that most states now use.  You simple dial 511 from any phone, follow a
few simple directions and you will be given the latest available road
conditions for the area you selected. This service got its start in North Dakota. 

The University of North Dakota started the
#SAFE program in the winter of 1996. That program was used as the basis of the national system that is
currently in place and it continues to expand into more states each year.

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Cyclone Sidr

Tropical systems have different names based on the area they
formed in.  In the Atlantic they are
called Hurricanes, in the western Pacific they are referred to as Typhoons and
in the Indian Ocean they are Tropical Cyclones. 

A devastating cyclone named Sidr hit Bangladesh with
wind of 150 mph late last week.  Bangladesh is
especially at risk from tropical cyclones because of its high population living
on land barely above sea level.  This was
the worst cyclone to hit that area since 1991.  A few weeks back we mentioned that this was
the quietest tropical season in 30 years in the northern hemisphere. 

In 1992 there were very few hurricanes in the
Atlantic, but Hurricane Andrew was one of
those few storms.  As is always the case
with any type of storm, it only takes one and Cyclone Sidr is a sad reminder of
how devastating even quiet tropical seasons can be.

The Gales of November

The strong wind events from earlier this month were
reminders as to how windy November can be in this area.   In the
past we have experienced some memorable blizzards when snowfall was mixed with a
strong November wind. 

It was in November
of 1975 that a strong wind event associated with a powerful low pressure system
moved across Lake Superior with wind speeds
over 60 mph that created waves over 35 feet high that helped sink the “Edmund
Fitzgerald”.  This tragedy became one of the
most notable shipwrecks on the Great Lakes courtesy
of Gordon Lightfoot’s famous song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. 

Of the thousands of boats that have sunk in Lake Superior,
the Edmund Fitzgerald is still the largest to ever go down.  Lake Superior
usually will not begin to freeze up until sometime in December, so it is the “gales
of November”, that brings many shipping disasters to the lake.

Snowless

It is the middle of November and yet, no measurable snow in
Fargo Moorhead.  Last year we had our
first measurable snow quite early, on October 11, yet, last November we only
saw 0.2” for the entire month. 

Our
average first measurable snowfall is on October 31, but in recent years that
has varied from December 14 in 1999, to that October 11 of last year.  Speaking of last year,  we saw very little snow in the area until last
February, but a couple of good snow events in February and March did, after a
very slow start, make it a very average winter for snowfall at nearly 40 inches
total. 

As a reminder, our first snow of
the infamous winter of 1996-1997 did not occur until November 15, yet we managed
117 inches during that
winter.  So in
other words a slow start doesn’t necessarily mean an open winter.

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Quiet Tropical Season

The Pacific Ocean is currently in the La Nina phase.  This is
when the equatorial waters of the ocean are colder than average, the opposite of
El Nino, when the equatorial waters are warmer than average.  Hurricanes tend to
be more frequent when ocean temperatures are warmer, so it is not surprising
that the number of hurricanes in the Pacific
Ocean
, both the eastern and western parts, have been well below
average this year. 

The Atlantic Ocean has seen
a slightly above average year on the number of named tropical systems, but taken
as a whole, the Northern Hemisphere has seen the lowest tropical cyclone
activity since 1977. 

Because the Pacific Ocean
has the vast majority of tropical systems occurring worldwide, other La Nina
years of 1979, 1988 and 1999 were also quiet tropical years like this year.

October 2007

This past October started off cloudy and wet, but finished sunny and dry. 
Even with the wet start, Fargo/Moorhead finished slightly below average
for rainfall with 1.76 inches of rain which was 0.21” below the long term
average.  Other parts of the area,
especially westcentral Minnesota,
saw over an inch more than we did locally.

Almost all of the rain in October
fell during the first half of the month, with the last ten days of October
receiving only four-hundreds of an inch. 
That dry spell has continued into November as measurable precipitation
has only fallen once in the last nineteen days. 

October will also go into the record books as a warm month.  The month finished 4.7 degrees above the long
range average which put it into the top 20 warmest Octobers since records
started in 1881.

 

 

Cold Winter?

Back in
September I mentioned that some research has shown a strong correlation between
October snow cover in Siberia and winter temperatures in North America, especially in our region.  An extensive
October snow pack in greater Eurasia tends to strengthen the area of cold high
pressure that develops in Siberia each winter
and is responsible for many of our more severe arctic outbreaks each year. 

This
past October did have a very extensive snow cover develop in Siberia which, based on this research, increases the odds
of colder than average winter temperatures for us.  This data in combination
with a La Nina that has developed in the Pacific
Ocean
would be two factors favoring this winter to have below
average temperatures. 

Does this guarantee a cold winter?  Certainly not,
long-range forecasts still are not very good, but these factors decrease the
likelihood of a third straight mild winter.