Hot and Cold

There has been strong temperature contrasts across the lower 48 states so far this summer. The northeastern third of the country has experienced very little summer weather since Memorial Day weekend. Much of New England has been rainy and very cool. Portland, Maine has recorded four out of their top-ten coolest July high temperatures ever recorded this month. New York City failed to hit 85 or higher in June for the first time since 1903 and almost all cities in the northeast are reporting temperatures three to six degrees below normal so far this summer.

Yet, at the same time, the south central part of the United States, especially Texas is experiencing an extremely hot summer, even by their standards with temperatures running three to six degrees above average. Locally, we have been one of the in between spots, experiencing stretches of both above and below normal temperatures.

One Hundred Ten

Since records began, Fargo Moorhead has hit 110 degrees or higher only three times. Two of those times were during the most intense heat wave recorded in this region. For fifteen straight days, July 4-18, 1936, the temperature was at or above 90 degrees and on nine of those days it was over 100 degrees. On two occasions, July 6 and July 10 the temperature reached 114 and 110 degrees.

The other 110 degree day occurred during the summer of 1917, but unlike 1936, that particular summer was not a hot one. As a matter of fact, to our east, the year 1917 was the coldest year of the 20th century in the Twin Cities and Duluth, Minnesota. Yet, mixed in with a mostly cool summer was a brief but intense heat wave when 11 out of 13 days in late July had highs in the 90s, with July 28, 1917 topping off at 110 degrees, the second warmest day on record.

Windless Season

July puts us into the doldrums of our summer season. Average temperatures have stabilized and will fluctuate very little over the course of the next few weeks. The average high temperature is currently 82 degrees and will only climb one more degree on July 17 and then remain at 83 degrees until August 11. Our average low temperature is currently 59 degrees and with the exception of three days, July 15-17, will remain at 59 degrees until August 12.

As the North American continent warms the temperature differences from Canada to Mexico usually are not that great this time of year. Fewer areas of intense low or high pressure will form giving us many days with a light wind. July and August tend to be the least windy months of the year. There are always exceptions, but the next 60 days could be considered our “windless season”.

Snow Season

As we move through July our focus is on thunderstorms and hot summer days, but July also marks the beginning of the new snow season. Rainfall records are kept on a yearly basis, from January to December, but snowfall records are recorded from July 1 through June 30. Our snow season that just ended finished on June 30 is now official with a grand total of 79.7 inches being measured in Fargo Moorhead.

That was 33.1 inches above the current 30 year average of 46.6 and nearly 40 inches above the long-term average (since 1881) of 40 inches. In the northern valley, Grand Forks finished the 2008-2009 snow season with 53.4 inches of accumulated snow which was only 9.1 inches above the current average. For the second straight year, southeastern North Dakota and west central Minnesota had significantly more snow than most areas just to our north.


Today’s Record High is 114 degrees set back in 1936.  That was the warmest temperature ever recorded in Fargo Moorhead.  Back in 1936 the official readings in town were kept on the roof of the Moorhead Post Office, so it probably was not 114 degrees had the reading been recorded on the ground in a standard setting, but having said that, it is considered the all-time record since 1881.



Lavender Sky

In many parts of the northern United States and Canada people are reporting more vivid sunsets, especially with the purple shades over the past two weeks. The reason can be attributed to Russian’s Sarychev Peak Volcano that erupted on June 12. The Sarychev Peak Volcano is part of a chain of volcanic islands that run south from the Kamchatka Peninsula in the western Pacific Ocean.

As with most volcanic eruptions, a large plume of volcanic ash and sulfur dioxide (SO2) and other debris was sent into the stratosphere. This mixture of volcanic debris, referred to as volcanic aerosols, will scatter blue light and when combined with the ordinary red colors seen during most sunsets, the sky can become a beautiful lavender color. The deep shades of lavender in the sky is often referred to as "volcanic lavender” because it is usually a telltale sign that a volcanic eruption has occurred somewhere.

June Global Temperatures

June Global temperature anomalies are now out and came in at 0.00 degrees.  In other words, exactly at the long-term average.  This also continues the general trend for global cooling for the past 8 years (most of this decade).



Here is a map of June temperature for just the lower 48 states:




BWCAW Blowdown

Today is the 10th Anniversary of the big blowdown that struck the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) on July 4, 1999. The straight-line wind event actually started in Fargo Moorhead early that morning. A microburst, a rapidly descending column of air from a thunderstorm, produced wind gusts near or exceeding 100 mph near West Acres early that morning causing significant damage to several apartments near the mall.

That same cell then raced northeastward across northern Minnesota forming a derecho, the term used to describe a long-lived windstorm produced by a line of thunderstorms. As the storms moved into the BWCAW the wind estimated to be over 100 mph at times knocked down millions of trees. The falling trees injured or trapped several campers, plus, the wind in combination with the torrential downpours made it nearly impossible for many canoeists to find or seek shelter. It was certainly a weather event that will be remembered by many.

First Half

It will not surprise anyone to learn that 2009 has been a cold year to this point. The average temperature during the first-half of 2009 was 32.7 degrees, which is 3.2 degrees below average. January through June was the 8th coldest such stretch in the past 40 years. In 2008 the first six months of the year had an average temperature of 32.6 degrees, so the past two years have started noticeably cool.

Before 2008, you would have to go back to the years 1996 and 1997 to find such a cold start to a year. Recent shifts in oceanic patterns in combination with the longest solar minimum in nearly 100 years at least two of the reasons for this cool stretch.

Precipitation-wise, the year at least locally in Fargo Moorhead has close to normal as we are currently 1.82 inches above average with our entire precipitation surplus coming in March.