Madison Turns 100

I have been asked several times in the past
couple of weeks about the progress of Madison,
Wisconsin
s snowfall since they
broke their seasonal snowfall record several weeks ago.  It is a good time
to bring this subject back up because earlier this week Madisons snowfall jumped over 100 inches for
the first time since snow records have been kept. 

As of this writing Madison has received 100.4
inches of snow.  The old record set back in the winter 1978-79 was 76.1
inches.   That is over two feet more than the previous record.  Milwaukees total snowfall
this season is also near 100 inches and only another ten inches is needed to
break their record as well. 

With the current pattern expected to remain
in place both locations are likely to receive more snow in the next two weeks.

Myths

There are many myths when it comes to tornadoes
that many people still believe.  Growing up in Minnesota one of the myths I was always
taught was that tornadoes always skip over lakes. 

The small town I grew
up in was surrounded by lakes, so naturally we all believed we could never be
hit by a tornado.  This is not true, but I am still asked about this every
year. 

Another tornado myth widely believed is that a tornado will never
strike in the downtown area of a major city.  In recent years Memphis, Tennessee, Salt Lake City, Utah and
just this past weekend Atlanta,
Georgia

downtowns were hit by tornadoes.  The one in downtown Atlanta was rated an EF-2 on the Fujita
tornado damage scale and may have caused over $150 million dollars of damage.

A
tornado is a rare meteorological occurrence at any particular spot, but when
conditions are right, they can and do form anywhere.

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Stubborn Cold

We are now about two-thirds of the way through
March and although we have had a handful of warmer days, most of the month has
been cold.  Currently we are running about five to six degrees below the
long-term average for the month. 

Looking out at the potential weather for
the last ten days of the month it is likely that March will be our fourth
straight month with below average temperatures. 

Back in the early spring
of 1988 many were probably wishing for warmer weather as well, as January
through April were cool that year, but suddenly the heat came in May and the summer
of 1988 turned out to be the hottest on record.  

I am certainly not
saying that will happen this year, but it is one of many examples in our
weather records on how this area can switch from too cold to too hot in a
hurry.

First 40

Last week we finally had our first 40 degree day
since November 25.  This means we did not get to 40 degrees during
meteorological winter which is defined as December, January and February. 
This past winter was the first winter without a 40 degree or higher temperature
since the winter of 1981-82. 

Even during the cold and snowy winters of
1996-97 and 2000-01 we had an occasional 40 degree day, but this past winter
the warmest we managed was a 38 degree high on January 6. Back in the spring of
1982, like this year, March was slow to warm up and truly mild conditions in
the 60s and 70s didnt arrive until the middle of April. 

I would not be
surprised if something similar happens this year, but then again, our average
first 70 is not until April 17, so slow warm-ups are the norm in this
area.
 

Frost Depth

The cold start to March continues to increase
the frost depth in most areas, although the last couple of days has obviously stopped the process for now. 

Even with
the six to 10 inch snow cover around Fargo Moorhead, frost depths are
currently between two to four feet with a 30 inch frost depth being reported at
NDSU as of last Friday.  Snow is an excellent insulator and
does help keep the frost from going too deep.

As an example, the frost depth on US Highway 2 near Cass Lake, Minnesota
is currently near 72 inches, measured over the road bed that of course is kept
snow free.  A little bit closer to home,
the Minnesota Department of Transportation was reporting a frost depth of 56
inches near Ada, Minnesota on Highway 200. 

With warmer weather coming in the weeks
ahead, the frost will slowly leave the ground from both the top down and the
bottom up.  Usually the frost between two
and three feet is the last to leave the soil.
 

La Nina Continues

I have mentioned before about how this winter
over North America has been fairly typical for
a La Nina.  The cooler waters over the
tropical Pacific Ocean has also caused
somewhat typical La Nina weather in other parts of the world as well, just not
necessarily welcomed in all cases.  

In
Asia, the Chinese Meteorological Administration is blaming the La Nina pattern
for the drought across north China
and the severe winter across the southern part of the country. Drought has
persisted for a number of months in northern China
where water supplies are becoming quite low and this may cause fresh water
supplies to be a problem in the Beijing
area during the upcoming Summer Olympics.

 In Australia, the La
Nina has brought some much needed relief from drought conditions seen in recent
years, but at the same time Sydney
saw their coldest summer in over 50 years do to the persistent cloud cover and
rain.

March 2000

Back in the year 2000 we had a stretch of
incredibly warm weather during the early part of March.  For five straight days, running from March 3
through the 7 we set a daily record high. 
Four of those five days were in the 60s including a 67 degree reading on
March 5. 

Of course in this climate the
weather can not stay that warm for very long so early in the season.  By March 8, 2000 we had 3 inches of snow and
by the middle of the month temperatures were in the single digits above
zero. 

After another warm-up toward the
end of March 2000, the weather turned colder in April.  Cold enough that on April 11, we had a daily
record low of 7 degrees the day after a 6 inch snow event on April 10. 

Yes, spring can be fickle in the Red River Valley. 

March of ’66

Wednesday, March 2, 1966 started off with a gentle breeze and many
people started off the day enjoying some fine weather as there was
little snow on the ground and temperatures had been fairly mild the
previous few days. This all came to a rapid halt as what is probably
the worst blizzard of the 20th century in North Dakota was about to hit
the area.

For
four days the storm ravaged the northern plains, Fargo/Moorhead picked
up around 15 inches of snow, but not far to the west in eastern and
especially northeastern North Dakota two to three feet of snow would
fall over the course of four days. The wind gusted to 70 mph (over 100
mph in Nebraska) and created drifts of 30 to 40 feet over the area.
Bismarck reported 42 straight hours, that is almost two straight days
of zero visibility.

One aspect of that winter that made the
storm particularly shocking is that the winter had been cold and dry to
that point. January of 1966 was extremely cold, with 30 out of 31
nights below zero. However, despite the cold, snow was light that
winter. Despite the steady cold, there was only 2-3 inches of snow on
the ground most of the winter. Also, right after the storm, the spring
arrived with warm temperatures and a rapid snow melt that caused
extensive flooding in the Red River Valley north of Grand Forks.

Thirteen
people lost their lives in that storm and livestock losses were
extremely high. It took days, in some instances a couple of weeks to
dig out some parts of the area. No storm since has come close to the
magnitude of what could be described as a super storm. The rest of the
month the weather was quite nice and mild (with the exception of a few
days after the snow was over), so by the end of March the snow was gone
and life returned to normal, but for anyone old enough to remember,
those four days in March will never be forgotten.

Winter 2007-8

Although winter weather frequently lasts well
into April in this area, meteorological winter has come to an end.
Meteorological winter is defined as the three coldest months of the year which
are December, January and February.

This winter as expected has been a cold one, with
an average temperature of approximately 8.1 degrees which is about 3 degrees
below the long term average. Last winter, as a comparison, was nearly 4
degrees above average, so this winter was significantly colder than last
year.

The winter finished just slightly above average for precipitation.
During the three winter months, there was 30.9 inches of snow with a water
content of 2.35 inches. That is 3.5 inches above average, although we are still several inches below the long term average for the snow season.

February

For the third straight year we have had a cold
February. The average temperature for February was 7.4 degrees, which is
more than five degrees below the long term average. This was no where
near the Top 10, but needless it say, it was still climatologically a cold
month.

The warmest temperature was 35 degrees on the 16th and
the coldest temperature was -31 degrees set four days later on the 20th.

Only 10 of the 29 days were above average and there were 13 days with
temperatures below zero. Temperatures may have been well below average,
but precipitation was slightly above the long term average. We ended up
with 8.8 inches of snow which had a water content of 0.67 inches.

Average February snow is 6.0 inches with a
water content of 0.59 inches.

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