What a Month

March 2009 was one of the most remarkable Marches in the record book with it being the snowiest and wettest on record. March 2010 was also a unique month for different reasons. There were two different statistical features last month that I found interesting. The first was the lack of snow. Last year Fargo Moorhead recorded 28.1 inches of snow which surpassed the previous record set in 1997 of 26.2 inches.

This year was a completely different story. For only the third time since 1881 no measurable snow was recorded. Only a trace was recorded last month with a brief snow shower passing through town on the 19th and a brief period of sleet recorded on the 27th. The other interested tidbit last month was the 13 days we observed with a low temperature above freezing. That was the most such days recorded in the month of March surpassing the 12 such days recorded back in 1946.

What a Month

March 2009 was one of the most remarkable Marches in the record book with it being the snowiest and wettest on record. March 2010 was also a unique month for different reasons. There were two different statistical features last month that I found interesting. The first was the lack of snow. Last year Fargo Moorhead recorded 28.1 inches of snow which surpassed the previous record set in 1997 of 26.2 inches.

This year was a completely different story. For only the third time since 1881 no measurable snow was recorded. Only a trace was recorded last month with a brief snow shower passing through town on the 19th and a brief period of sleet recorded on the 27th. The other interested tidbit last month was the 13 days we observed with a low temperature above freezing. That was the most such days recorded in the month of March surpassing the 12 such days recorded back in 1946.

What a Month

March 2009 was one of the most remarkable Marches in the record book with it being the snowiest and wettest on record. March 2010 was also a unique month for different reasons. There were two different statistical features last month that I found interesting. The first was the lack of snow. Last year Fargo Moorhead recorded 28.1 inches of snow which surpassed the previous record set in 1997 of 26.2 inches.

This year was a completely different story. For only the third time since 1881 no measurable snow was recorded. Only a trace was recorded last month with a brief snow shower passing through town on the 19th and a brief period of sleet recorded on the 27th. The other interested tidbit last month was the 13 days we observed with a low temperature above freezing. That was the most such days recorded in the month of March surpassing the 12 such days recorded back in 1946.

First 60

Every spring many of us look forward to reaching the decadal temperature milestones; the first, 50, 60, 70 and finally 80 degree day. We have already recorded our first 50 of the year, so our next milestone is reaching 60 degrees or higher. The long-term average for such an occurrence is April 3, with a range from February 25, 1958 to May 6, 1893. So any 60 degree weather next week would be very close to the average.

Occasionally, the first 60 degree day is also the first 70 degree day. That has happened 11 times since 1881 with 2002 being the last year that occurred. In 2002 the warmest day of the year had only been 53 degrees, when a surge of warm air brought the high to 73 degrees on April 12 and then a remarkable high of 89 degrees on April 16.

Beyond 60 degrees, our average first 70 is April 18, our average first 80 occurs on May 5 and the years we do hit 90, the average is June 9.

 

The Long Winter

The National Climatic Data Center released their official statistics for the winter of 2009-2010 last week and they verified what most people in the lower 48 states already knew, it was a cold winter. All the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, plus Oklahoma, Arkansas and South Carolina had a Top 10 coldest winter on record. South Central Texas, near Austin, and the extreme southern portion of Mississippi recorded their coldest winter since 1895.

Miami, Florida, a hot spot for the winter snow birds, recorded their 2nd coldest winter on record and most other cities in south Florida also recorded a Top 5 coldest winter. Locally, North Dakota recorded the 46th coldest winter since 1895 and Minnesota the 57th. Only ten states had the entire state finishing above average; Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan and the six New England states.

The winter precipitation trends tended to follow closely to the temperature. Where it was colder it tended to be wet (snowy) and the warmer areas were generally drier than average.

Flood Pictures 2010

Here are some flood pictures promised on another blog where the link didn’t work:

 

View of the crest looking north over Fargo Moorhead.  Courtesy of Vern Whitten.

 

What the crest looked like from a similar perspective in 2009.  Again, courtesty of Vern Whitten.

 

 

Where the Wild Rice River meets the Red, south of Fargo.  You are looking to the Southwest.

Courtesy of Vern Whitten Photography.

 

Water over the southbound lane of I-29 north of Fargo, ND.

 

Almost like driving on water.  This is I29 north of Fargo.

 

House on the Sheyenne River next to I29 north of Fargo.

 

I29 North of Fargo, barely above water.

 

Steps leading down to the trail along the Red River from the Main Street Bridge.

Looking West into Fargo.

Water flowing under the railroad bridge in downtown Moorhead.

 

Dike along 2nd Street in Downtown Fargo, ND

 

West of Fargo, near Mapleton, looking west at the overland flooding near the Sheyenne River.  I-94 is the roadway on the right of the image.

 

 

First 50!

The high temperature on Sunday, March 21, was officially 53 degrees in Fargo Moorhead. That was the first 50 degree day of the year and very close to the long-term average of March 18 for such an occurrence. Looking back through the record book, the first day with a high of 50 or higher tends to occur at the same time the snow cover disappears from the area.

Once the landscape turns from white to brown and black, much more of the Sun’s energy is absorbed translating into warmer temperatures. Of all the first 50s since 1881, the highest snow depth has been 6 inches and that occurred in both 1907 and 1997. There has been an occasional year with three or four inches on the ground, but since 1881, 92 percent of the time the first 50 occurred with 1 inch or less snow depth being measured. On Sunday our official snow depth was zero which fit that long-term pattern.

Flood Pictures

I posted some flood pics on Twitter.  My username is wdayweather.  Do a search for me and you’ll find them there.

Also, I have pictures on Facebook.  This link should be open to the public, or you can ask to be my friend.

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2033745&id=1399522868

 

 UPDATE:  The link above from a comment, doesn’t work.  Sorry about that.  :-(   I’ll try to post here yet today.

Dash of Snow

As of the morning of March 18 the official snow cover in Fargo Moorhead has been considered a trace. Granted there are still some huge snow piles in the area and many area lawns are still snow covered, but if the remaining snow was spread out the remaining snow would likely be less than one inch, therefore, it is considered a trace.

A snow depth of one inch or greater was measured in Fargo Moorhead from December 3 to March 17 for a total of 105 straight days. The long-term average for the number of days with snow cover during a winter (not necessarily in a row) is 103 days. The two winters with the most total days with snow cover were the winters of 1935-1936 and 1978-1979 with 155. Both of those winters had snow cover from early November through early April.

The most recent winter approaching that record was, unsurprisingly, during the winter of 1996-1997 with 147 total snow covered days with 141 of those consecutive from November 15 through April 3.

Spring Forecast

I was asked to write a spring outlook for the North Dakota Climate bulletin which covers our past winter season in the state of North Dakota.  I am posting my thoughts here as well:

 

The North American continent during the winter of 2009-2010 was dominated by two principle players; an El Nino in the central Pacific Ocean and a strong negative Arctic Oscillation. An El Nino occurs when the waters of the equatorial Pacific are warmer than normal. This extra heat energy into the atmosphere tends to enhance the sub-tropical jet stream making the southern tier of the United States cooler and wetter than normal, whereas the polar jet stream that impacts North Dakota tends to shift into southern Canada bringing above average winter temperatures and below average precipitation (snowfall) to the state.

Although the southern tier of the United States generally saw winter weather typical of most El Ninos, North Dakota and other northern states did not. Although in a complex atmosphere there are always numerous unknown reasons that could be players, one reason this area finished colder than would otherwise be expected could be blamed on a phenomenon referred to as the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The AO is a climate pattern characterized by winds circulating counterclockwise around the arctic. When the AO is in its positive phase, a ring of stronger winds circulating around the North Pole tends to keep the coldest air in the higher latitudes. In the negative phase of the AO, this belt of winds becomes weaker allowing arctic air to more readily move southward bringing bitterly cold air to the state.

In recent months the Arctic Oscillation has been strongly negative several times which not only impacted our weather, but also conditions throughout the lower 48 states. The Arctic Oscillation can impact seasons besides winter; it was a strong negative AO that helped produce the cold summers in 2004 and 2009 and could also be a player during the spring of 2010.

According to research being done by Rob Kupec a meteorologist at WDAY-TV in Fargo, ND as well as a graduate student at North Dakota State University, spring seasons in North Dakota when an El Nino is still present, like this year, tend to finish with slightly warmer than normal spring seasons. But a three-month average often means little if the warmer conditions come in March or early April before the planting season begins. Also, if the warmer Pacific Ocean does not fade by May, wetter than average conditions often arrive during the spring planting season.

These factors as well as the Arctic Oscillation continuing to be a player seems to be increasing the odds for the latter half of the spring being cooler and wetter than normal during the beginning of the growing season after the warmer than average start to the season.

The North Dakota State climate Office has links to the National Weather Service’s local 3-month temperature outlooks for the upper coming year. Those outlooks can be found here:

http://www.ndsu.edu/ndsco/outlook/L3MTO.html

The latest spring outlook from the Climate Prediction Center is giving equal chances for the spring season to be either average, above average or below average for both precipitation and temperatures throughout the state and considering the wide weather fluctuations we will likely experience in the coming weeks, that seems to be a valid analysis.

Those outlooks can be found at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/.