Sub Freezing Highs Coming

It usually takes a stretch of several days with both the high and the low temperature remaining below freezing before most of the area lakes and ponds will begin to freeze over. But so far this season, that type of weather has been nearly absent and therefore most bodies of water are still ice free.

Previous to this year, the latest date achieved without recording a freezing or sub-freezing high occurred on November 27, 1999 with the long-term average being November 5. To date, the lowest high temperature officially in Fargo Moorhead this season was a 34° reading on November 26, so we have now surpassed the record by making it through the entire month of November without a sub-freezing high temperature. We average 98 days per year with a high temperature at or below 32 degrees and it appears Wednesday will be the first of many such days in our upcoming winter season.

Thankful Weather

Historically, about one-half of all years will have a weather event during the four day Thanksgiving weekend that makes travel difficult, but usually the bad weather does not occur on Thursday. Since 1950, it has snowed one inch or more only four times on Thanksgiving Day and on 47 of those 58 years (81%) no measurable precipitation fell, including 14 out of the last 15.

That one exception was back in 2003 when one-half inch of snow fell in Fargo Moorhead. The heaviest Thanksgiving Day snow was 7.8 inches that fell back in 1993. That was part of a stretch of seven straight days of snow that added up to over a foot with snow falling over the entire four day holiday weekend that year. So on this day of giving thanks, we can often give thanks for the weather and it appears today will be another in our streak of dry Thanksgiving days.




Travel Weather

If you are traveling over the Thanksgiving weekend, road conditions will be certainly be of great concern. Sometimes only trace amounts of either freezing rain or snow is necessary to make travel hazardous. One service that has greatly helped travelers has been the introduction of the 511 service that most states now use, including all the states in the upper-Midwest.

You simply dial 511 from any phone (including your cell phone), follow a few simple directions and you will be given the latest available road conditions for the area you selected. This service originated in this area. The University of North Dakota started the #SAFE program in the winter of 1996. That program was used as the basis of the national 511 system that is currently in place. Road conditions can change rapidly, but usually this service can give you a good estimate to the conditions you will be experiencing during your travels.

Appreciation of Clouds

Many of our “Six Pix” that are presented by Rob Kupec on our weekend broadcasts are often of clouds in unique shapes and colors. Most people know the three basic cloud types; stratus, cirrus and cumulus, but cloud classification builds upon the basics into a labyrinth of subtypes usually using Latin descriptive words that can be confusing.

There are probably few people that know all of the dozens of cloud types, plus, subtleties in cloud formation can make it difficult to classify them all perfectly. But no matter if you know the exact names or not, many people just appreciate the wonder and spectacle of a sky filled with clouds. Some people love clouds so much that they are members of The Cloud Appreciation Society.

They have a website ( full of beautiful cloud pictures from all over the world and a cloud chart that can be helpful in learning cloud names.

Thanksgiving Storm Perception

With Thanksgiving coming up this week many of you will be paying close attention to the weather forecast. The common perception is that it there always seems to be a storm during the Thanksgiving weekend. There are probably two reasons for this. First, is length, as over the course of four or five days the odds of some precipitation falling is always relatively high and it does not take much precipitation to cause travel headaches.

The second may surprise you and deals with the timing of storms. In the 127 previous years of record keeping the days in November with the highest percentage of precipitation occurring have been on the 25th, 26th and 27th with snow falling on those days in nearly one year in three. The November daily average is for precipitation to fall on any given day in about one year in five. So the perception of storms around Thanksgiving does have some statistical confirmation to it.



Freezing Highs

The coldest high temperature this autumn season was on October 10 when the maximum temperature only hit 35°. Only one other time on record have we recorded a high temperature of 35° or lower earlier in the season and that was back on October 9, 1985. The earliest date with a high of 32° or less occurred on October 12, 1909, so we came within three degrees of breaking that particular record.

But instead of breaking the record for the earliest high at or below freezing, we may instead come close to breaking the record for having the latest such day since 1881. The current record for the latest high of 32° or lower occurred on November 27, 1999. At present, it looks like we will experience high temperatures above freezing until we approach Thanksgiving when colder weather may move into the area.

Therefore, if we break the record or not, we will certainly come very close.

Meridional Flow

The first half of November was the 5th warmest such stretch on record. It was a quick turnaround from the seasonally cold weather in October. In fact, the first half of October was the coldest on record which followed the 2nd warmest September since 1881. Our area has certainly been on the proverbial rollercoaster for the past several weeks.

This shifting of temperature extremes has not only been felt locally, but throughout much of the northern hemisphere. The upper-level wind flow has been in a strong meridional flow pattern for the past several weeks. This is a flow pattern where only small segments of the jetstream are flowing from west to east, but instead the flow has several north/south components. This allows unseasonally cool or warm temperatures to slowly transition around the northern hemisphere.

It appears we will be switching to colder again as we approach Thanksgiving with the possibility of a storm system moving along the transition zone.

Current Northern Hemispheric 500 mb chart:



Radar Mysteries

I received a phone call this week asking why there are two “blobs” persistently present on the Mayville Doppler Radar in Steele and Barnes counties. Those two areas the caller was referring to are wind farms. Although on-air and on our website we try to mask the so called ground clutter on the images we present, those two distinct areas are almost always present on the raw images found on the National Weather Service website and even occasionally on our images.

Wind towers are quite high, reaching 80 feet or higher on the landscape. If placed close enough to a radar site, the moving blades are detected as false precipitation echoes bouncing back to the radar. Given the right atmospheric conditions, other wind farms in our area can also be detected. All across the Great Plains, wind farms can be observed on radar, but because these areas are known by meteorologists they should not cause any problems with storm analysis.



Very Cold October Nationally

The National Climatic Data Center has released their official temperature and precipitations statistics for the month of October. October 2009 finished as the 3rd coldest October since 1895 for the lower 48 states. It was so chilly during the month of October nationally that only one state, Florida, finished with above normal temperatures with the rest of the country experiencing either average or more commonly below average temperatures for the month.

Oklahoma had the distinction of recording the coldest October in the 115 years such records have been kept. Fargo Moorhead ended with the 9th coldest October on record, but North Dakota as a whole recorded the 6th coldest and Minnesota the 5th coldest October.

Where it was cold last month, it was generally wet. As a whole, the United States recorded the wettest October on record as widespread heavy rain was a dominate feature of the weather last month, not only locally, but nationally as well.  North Dakota ended up with the 5th wettest October since 1895 (3rd in Fargo Moorhead since 1881) and Minnesota as a whole experienced the 3rd wettest.  It was quite the month climatologically speaking.

High Red

One of the most frequent questions asked of methis week were several individuals wondering if the Red River had ever been this high during the month of November. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) only has such records going back to 1901 for Fargo Moorhead. In those 108 years of record keeping at no time was the Red River as high this month as it was last week on November 4 when the river crested at 23.59 feet.

That mark corresponds to a streamflow of 8040 cubic feet of water per second flowing past the water treatment plant in south Fargo where the gauge is located. Last year we also had an autumn flood when the Red River crested at 25.35 feet on October 16, 2008 which corresponded to a streamflow of 9180 cubic feet per second.

The Red River should be back below flood stage sometime on Sunday, but will maintain a higher than normal streamflow until freeze up.