Great Show

According to numerous reports, including information from the Minnesota Department of Tourism, the autumn foliage show should be at peak, or very close to peak around the area this weekend.  Although the extreme northern portions of Minnesota probably have already peaked, west-central Minnesota looks to be peaking this week, with the southern one-third of the state probably peaking in another six to ten days.

Already I have received numerous pictures of the gorgeous scenery, especially in areas around Bemidji, Park Rapids and Detroit Lakes.  Another area that could be putting on a spectacular show this weekend will be along the Sheyenne River Valley Scenic Byway running from Lake Ashtabula to Lisbon.  The weather looks generally sunny this weekend allowing the leaves to put on their best possible show.

After a very poor autumn event last year caused by a very hard freeze, the colors this year looks to be worth the drive to see nature at its finest.  Below are a couple of shots sent to us by viewers:

The Last Hope

Although tomorrow marks the end of September, today is likely the last chance we have to stay away from breaking a cold weather record.  You see, the warmest temperature so far this month has only been 75 degrees, recorded on both September 1 and September 27.  Previous to this month, the coolest maximum high temperature during any September was 76 degrees recorded in 1907.

Although a cold front will be moving across the area today, we at least have a small (very small) chance of hitting 76 degrees or higher before the cooler air moves in.  Tomorrow the high will likely be in the 60s; therefore, if the airport does not get beyond 75 degrees today, September 2010 will go into the record books as having the coolest maximum temperature of any September since 1881.  Either way, this month will likely go down as only the 5th September since 1881 without an 80 degree high, which demonstrates how cool our afternoons have been this month.

Spring Flood in September

The rain event from last week has caused some rivers north of Fargo Moorhead to rise into the minor flood stage.  But the situation is far worse in southern Minnesota.   A widespread rainfall in the 4 to 7 inch range, with localized higher amounts, has attributed to rapid, near record rises to many rivers and lakes south of the Twin Cities.

Much of this excessive rain drains into the Minnesota River which is currently experiencing flooding that has been seen only a handful of times in the past 100 years.  Today, the Minnesota River at Mankato, Minnesota, is creasting at the 4th highest observed level on record.

Current Minnesota River level and forecast.

Several roads in that area are still closed due to flooding not only along the Minnesota River, but also from the numerous tributaries feeding into it.

Flooding north of St. Peter, Minnesota along US Highway 169:

Courtesy of Jeff Kienholz

Highway 99 bridge over the Minnesota River in St. Peter, Minnesota:

Courtesy Jeff Kienholz

The drier weather now dominating the upper-Midwest is expected to allow the rivers to fall below flood stage by this time next week, but flooding problems will persist for the next several days.

My friend Dan Dix, a meteorologist working for The Weather Channel, has a much better write up on his blog here:

Chocolate Fall

Now that the weather looks to be changing to warmer and sunnier conditions, the changing fall foliage will become much more noticeable.  This is in stark contrast to last year.  September 2009 was the 2nd warmest on record and because of that, the leaves did not change much during that time period.  Then the weather pattern shifted and the first 15 days of October were the coldest such period on record.

That huge shift from warm to cold literally froze the leaves while they were mostly still green, which meant almost no color change.  Many trees just dropped the green leaves straight to the ground while the other trees just turned an ugly brown color and stayed that way for several weeks.  It was the worst autumn for colors in several years.   Here is an example of our fall colors last year:

So I am looking forward to what looks to be a much more promising fall foliage show coming up in the next few weeks.

Land of Extremes!

Back in 1985, Utah was believed to have broken the record for the highest annual temperature range for any state. That year Peter?s Sink, UT was thought to have recorded a low of -69?F on February 1, followed by St. George, UT recording a high of 117?F on July 5.    That is a range of 186? in a single year.

Previous to that, the record was held by North Dakota with an annual temperature range of 181? set in 1936.  That year, Parshall, ND recorded a low of -60?F on February 15, followed by Steele, ND reaching a high of 121?F on July 6.  Both still stand as the all-time warmest and coldest temperatures recorded in the state.

Recently, the National Climate Extremes Committee questioned the validity of the -69?F reading from Peter?s Sink, UT and found no evidence to support such a temperature.  By the way, Dr. Akyuz, the North Dakota State Climatologist is on this committee.

Therefore, North Dakota once again holds the position of having the highest annual temperature extremes of any state since records have been kept.

Early Snow

Because it happened on a Friday when many folks are out and about and not paying attention to the news and weather as much as other days, you may have missed this, but it did snow in southwestern ND on Friday afternoon.  Certainly not unheard of this time of year, but still, snow on September 17 could be considered unusual.

Here is a pic from a viewer who was hunting out by Killdeer, ND.  About 1/2″ was measured.

No Guarantees

With a La Nina (cold water phase) already developed in the Pacific Ocean, you often hear that means the winter will likely be cold and snowy.  The problem with that statement is there is no statistical basis for it.

There is certainly strong climatological reasons to think the upcoming winter will be colder than average as 25 out of the 31 La Nina winters since 1881 have been colder than average here in Fargo Moorhead.  But since 1881, more winters have been drier than average, both for precipitation and snowfall, than wetter than average during La Nina winters.  Although, the percentage is far lower statistically than with temperatures.

The reality is, we have seen both very wet and very dry La Nina winters, but the overall average slightly favors dry to normal precipitation.  No one knows what the winter will bring, but my point is, just because there is a La Nina, does not guarantee any type of weather this upcoming cold season.

Not so Cold

The first half of September was another reminder to the fact that we live in a cold dominated climate. It may surprise you to learn that the first 15 days of September averaged just 3.5 degrees below average.  The main reason this month has probably felt colder is principally because of our day time highs, as on only one day, September 12 has the high temperature finished above the daily average.

The average temperature through the 15th was 57.4 degrees ranking as the 25th coldest such period on record.  Granted that means since records started there have been 105 Septembers with warmer temperatures, but it also means there were 24 years with colder weather in September, including one as recently as 1999.

There is no denying the first half of this month has been seasonally cool, but in our climate to get temperatures cold enough to rank in the Top 10 for instance, requires extreme cold that may come only once every 15 or 20 years.

Competing Almanacs

It is that time of year again when the winter forecast from the Farmer?s Almanac always makes the news.  What many people do not realize is there are actually two Farmer?s Almanac forecasts.

If you listen carefully, sometimes you will hear The Old Farmer?s Almanac and other times just the Farmer?s Almanac.  The Old Farmer?s Almanac is the original and has been published since 1792 and is based in Dublin, New Hampshire.  The Farmer?s Almanac started in 1818 and is based in Lewiston, Maine.  Both publish books that are released in late summer that are similar in size, although, the front covers will look differently.  Too add to the confusion, sometimes the two magazines have significantly different forecasts.

For what it is worth, if you are curious and have not heard, both Almanacs are forecasting a cold and snowy winter.  Always a safe bet when forecasting a winter for North Dakota and Minnesota.

October in September

The warmest temperature so far this month was the 75 degree high recorded on September 1.  Therefore, we have yet to hit 80 degrees.  Fargo Moorhead averages six 80 degree days in September.  There have been just five Septembers since 1881 without at least one day with a high of 80 degrees or higher.  The last time this occurred was back in 1986. We are also on pace to record the lowest maximum temperature for the month of September as the coolest maximum high recorded this month is 76 degrees set back in 1907.

This is in stark contrast to last year, when we recorded 13 days at or above 80 degrees including a streak of eight in a row from September 13-20.  September 2009 was also the 2nd warmest on record.

Granted, it only takes one day and the month is only half done, but looking at the long-range trends, 80 degree weather is not looking too promising at the moment.