Today is the last day of meteorological summer. This past summer will likely be remembered as the summer of tornados as this area finished with tornado numbers well above the historical average. With the severe weather came rain amounts that varied widely across the area. Around Fargo Moorhead, rainfall amounts were above average, but not excessively so with totals running one to three inches above normal.
The Minnesota Lakes country on the other hand did have excessive rain problems this summer with much of Becker and Otter Tail counties finishing with rainfall totals between five to ten inches above average. Yet, just north of Fargo, rain was scarce, with some portions of Steele and Traill counties finishing the summer with rainfall totals below average.
The summer of 2009 was cool and dry, this summer finished warm and moist. Perhaps we will get lucky and our up-coming winter will be the opposite of what happened last year as well.
In the past week you have likely noticed that the wind has once again become a more noticeable component of the weather. We are at the beginning stages of our transition to autumn and with that will come more frequent windy days. As the higher latitudes gradually cool down in the coming weeks, both high and low pressure systems will be enhanced. This is principally caused by ever larger temperature contrasts that will form from the warmer southern United States, to the ever cooling provinces of Canada.
Granted, not every day will be windy, but a slow increase in average wind speed can be expected through November into early December, when our average wind speed will once begin to decrease as we move into the peak of the cold season. Then as we transition into next year?s warm season, the process will reverse, yet still have the same result, higher wind speeds in our area as we move into spring.
On several occasions this summer, especially after the passage of a cold front, the sky has appeared hazy and dull. These conditions were particularly noticeable the past two days. These unusual sky conditions are associated with fires that have been burning for much of the summer in Saskatchewan. The fires are in a remote area, and from what I have read, allowed to burn with little human interaction. Therefore, with each cold frontal passage, the upper-level wind flow turns to the northwest allowing the smoke from these fires to move into North Dakota and northern Minnesota. Because of this, we may continue to have periods of a smoky sky until snow eventually puts these fires out.
In recent summers, fires from the northern Rockies would on occasion move into our area, but because much of the western part of the United States has been cooler and wetter than average this year, few fires have formed in those areas.
Based on data from the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI) the summer of 2010 is likely going to be the coldest on record for areas north of 80 degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere. This would be the area immediately surrounding the North Pole.
The DMI has been collecting and estimating temperatures in that area since 1958. Temperatures are estimated using both actual buoy data collected from the Arctic Ocean in combination with computer model analysis of that region. Although the areas around the North Pole never experience much warmth, with mid-summer temperatures averaging only in the mid to upper 30s, this summer has estimated temperatures hovering only around the freezing point or lower in recent weeks.
Not only has the high Arctic experienced cooler than normal temperatures lately, but also areas near the South Pole. Antarctica is currently experiencing a cold winter with Antarctic sea ice extent currently at record high levels for this time of year.
With each passing day the odds increase that the 95 degree high reached on May 29 will go down as the highest temperature of 2010. If that date holds, it would be one of just a few years since 1881 that the highest temperature of the year was recorded during the month of May.
The last time the highest temperature of the year occurred in May was back on May 5, 2000 when the high temperature reached 96 degrees. That particular spring there was talk of drought, but the summer of 2000 was the wettest on record with only seven additional 90 degree days observed the rest of that year.
Although the odds favor this area not surpassing our current highest temperature of 95 degrees, we do still have approximately four weeks left with at least a chance. In fact, in 1998 the highest temperature of the year was 97 that occurred on September 10, which is a reminder that in our climate, never say never.