Wet or Dry?

When looking back at October I am having a difficult time trying to decide if it should be considered a wet month or a dry month.  The driest October on record was back in 1986 when only 0.05? of rain fell.  Through the first 23 days of last month, no measurable precipitation was observed in Fargo Moorhead.  I have found no other such occurrence in the record books.

Yet, it was a wet month as the storm system on October 25-27 dumped nearly two inches of rain officially at Hector Int?l with many other locations nearby recording much more.  In the end, the month finished reasonably close to the average rainfall of 1.97? for the month of October.  Unfortunately, because that all came during a very short period of time, rather than being spread out over the entire month, it refilled the ditches and the rivers with water as we head into our cold season.

Therefore, referring to October as yet another wet month would likely be more accurate.

Halloween Chills

Most of you at some point have probably been forwarded an email that goes something like this; you grew up in (insert state here) if you have experienced these things (insert list).  Of course many of the featured listings could occur in numerous states, but generally those lists bring some chuckles and are fairly accurate.  Often times those lists include weather phenomenon which often includes wearing a parka over your Halloween costume if you grew up in the upper-Midwest.

Locally, with an average high of only 46 degrees and an average low of 27 degrees, it takes a day well above average to make trick-or-treating an event where a jacket and mittens are not a requirement.  Sunday  looks to be another typical chilly Halloween, but at least a touch warmer than most Halloweens through the years.

Thankfully, this year’s Halloween will at least not be as cold as it was in 2002, 2003, or 2006 when the high temperature was only in the low 30s.  All those recent Halloweens ranked in the top 15 coldest on record.


The storm system that affected the area the last two days was one of the most intense storms ever recorded in the United States. We have recorded heavier rain events, other storms have brought more snow, but this storm had no rival when it came to atmospheric pressure.

Around 5:00 pm on Tuesday afternoon, an automatic sensor in Big Fork, Minnesota recorded a pressure of 28.20 inches of mercury (954.9 millibars).   Not only was that the lowest atmospheric pressure reading recorded in Minnesota, it is also the lowest non-hurricane pressure known to have occurred in the lower 48 states.

The previous Minnesota record was back on November 18, 1998 when the pressure was measured at 28.43 inches of mercury (962.7 millibars) in Albert Lea in southern Minnesota.  The national record low pressure record was thought to have occurred in Ohio in January 1978 when a pressure of 28.28 inches of mercury (958 millibars) was measured.

The storm also produced many high wind reports.  Here is a summary from NOAA.


BOONE AIRPORT 4 ESE                     58
ORANGE CITY                             58
SPENCER                                 58
WAUKON                                  51
ESTHERVILLE AIRPORT                     50
IONIA 2 N                               49
CHARLES CITY 3 E                        45                     

MACKINAW 1 NE                           70
DUPAGE AIRPORT                          61
FAIRVIEW                                60
LAWRENCEVILLE AIRPORT                   60
OSKALOOSA                               60
JACKSONVILLE                            58
OLNEY                                   57
FLORA 1 E                               56
PETERSBURG 8 E                          55                     

GREENFIELD                              77
SW MONROEVILLE                          75
MOORESVILLE 2 NW                        70
TERRE HAUTE                             70
ODON                                    68
SHERIDAN                                68
NORMAL 1 N                              67
COLUMBIA CITY                           65
ANDERSON 5 N                            63
INDIANAPOLIS                            61                     

POINT AUX BARQUES 3 W                   71
FREDA                                   69
GRAND MARAIS                            68
DAVISON                                 65
SOUTH HAVEN 1 W                         64
ESCANABA                                58
MUSKEGON 4 W                            58
PLOVER                                  58
FAIRPORT                                56
CADILLAC                                54                     

GEORGEVILLE                             65
MEHURIN                                 65
HANLEY FALLS                            63
LAKE BENTON                             62
MORRIS                                  62
SAUK CENTRE                             62
ALEXANDRIA                              61
LANGHEI                                 61
GLENWOOD                                60
MINNEAPOLIS                             60
ST. CLOUD                               50                     

COMERTOWN 6 S                           60                     

FARGO/HECTOR FIELD                      64
BISMARCK                                61
HETTINGER                               61
MANDAN 4 S                              60
JAMESTOWN                               59
ADAMS                                   58
GARRISON                                58
DICKINSON                               56
MINOT                                   54
WILLISTON                               47
LINTON                                  46                     

ONEILL                                  55
GRAND ISLAND                            54
OGALLALA                                54
VALENTINE                               54
BROKEN BOW                              51
ORD                                     47
HASTINGS                                45                     

UNION CENTER                            70
SISSETON                                64
ABERDEEN                                62
CASTLEWOOD                              62
FAITH                                   62
RAPID CITY/ELLSWORTH AFB                62
BUFFALO 1 N                             61
DRAPER 4 NNE                            61
MOBRIDGE 1 ENE                          61
PHILIP 3 E                              61
OACOMA                                  60
PIERRE MUNI ARPT                        60                     

SHERWOOD                                76
ALGOMA                                  68
ALGOMA CITY MARINA                      68
KENOSHA MUNI ARPT                       68
SHIOCTON 4 W                            59
PLOVER                                  58
BELLEVUE                                57
EYOTA RWIS 2 SE                         56
VIROQUA AWOS                            56
GREENVILLE                              55
LA CROSSE 3 E                           50                     


Fargo has broken the October record for the lowest pressure measured this month.  We are now at 28.58″ of mercury.  28.54″ is the all-time record for any month.  If you have a wall barometer you’ll notice that most of them only go down to 29″ of mercury.

Minnesota has broken their record for the lowest pressure ever recorded in the state with pressure down to 958 mb which is around 28.40″ of mercury.

Watch out for rapidly changing conditions tonight as the rain turns to snow.

First Snowfall

I come back from vacation to the first storm in nearly a month.  Looks like our first snow, probably accumulating, will occur on Tuesday Night or Wednesday.  If you are curious,  the average first measurable snowfall of the season in Fargo Moorhead occurs on October 31.   Like most statistical aspects to our climate, the actual first accumulating snow event varies greatly from year to year.  This area has recorded accumulating snow as early as September and on occasion we have waited until well into December to see the first measurable snowfall.

But no matter when the first snow of the season is seen, it is an event that does not go unnoticed.  Most kids get excited; many adults may look at the sky in disgust dreading the beginning of another snow season.  The first snow of the season usually melts and becomes just a memory and that will be the case with this event, but eventually, probably sometime in November or early December a snow event will usher in a lasting cold snap that give us a permanent snow pack that will not melt until next spring.

The Long Winter

It was on this date, October 15 in 1880 that a violent early season blizzard raked Minnesota and the Dakotas. Winds gusted to 70 mph at Yankton SD, and snow drifts 10 to 15 feet high were reported in northwest Iowa and southeast South Dakota. Saint Paul MN reported a barometric pressure of 28.65 inches on the 16th. Railroads were blocked by drifts of snow which remained throughout the severe winter to follow. Gales did extensive damage to ships on the Great Lakes.

This storm was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book “The Long Winter” when she writes about the early October blizzard that started the winter that continued to see numerous blizzards and bitterly cold weather.  The following spring brought massive flooding as all the snow melted.  The winter of 1880-1881 was one of the most severe winters in the upper-Midwest since records have been kept.

Weather ACE

Although the tropical Atlantic has been fairly active this year, the same has not been true for the rest of the world. Although the number of named storms usually gets the most attention, it is only one factor in the determination of tropical activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also use the strength and duration of each tropical storm to calculate what they call the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index.  The combining of the number, strength and duration of tropical systems into a set mathematical equation can give a much better insight into the differences between tropical seasons rather than just counting the number of storms alone.

During the past four years the global tropical cyclone activity measured by the ACE index has fallen by 50% and currently is ranked as the lowest of the past 33 years.  The overall cooling of the Pacific Ocean and changes in wind conditions aloft are the two most likely reasons for the tropics becoming less active in recent years.

Will it be 4?

The equatorial Pacific Ocean continues to cool at a very rapid rate.  The transition from last year?s El Nino to our current La Nina was one of the fastest transitions observed.  An El Nino, in simple terms, is when the water along and near the equatorial Pacific is warmer than average and a La Nina is present when the water temperatures are running below average.   Right now the La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean are the strongest since 1955.  The weather we have been experiencing in recent weeks has been fairly typical of other La Nina autumns in the past.

I have written before that no one variable will guarantee this area any type of weather for our upcoming cold season. With that in mind, in the past 60 years, all the winters that had La Nina conditions of this magnitude ended up with temperature averaging below normal except one.

Therefore, at the moment, the odds favor another colder than average winter for this area.


On Monday afternoon the high temperature in Fargo Moorhead was 78 degrees, just two degrees shy of tying the record for the most consecutive days in a row with a high temperature of 80 degrees or higher during the month of October.  In October, 1934, Fargo Moorhead recorded a high temperature in the 80s from October 10 through the 13 for the longest such streak for the month.

Other years have recorded more 80 degree days, for example, in 1910 the high temperature was at or above 80 degrees on seven occasions, but that year, like this year, the longest stretch of 80 degree highs was three days.   Of the 130 Octobers in the record book, only in 63 of those years did an 80 degree day occur.  Therefore, our recent warm spell was certainly the exception rather than the rule for this month.

Through yesterday, this October ranks as the 6th warmest since 1881.

Wind and Mosquitoes Forever

Over the last several weeks I have been reading the diaries of Lewis and Clark and Joseph Nicollet.  Of course we all know about Lewis and Clark, but Joseph Nicollet is not as well known.  He was a French geographer and mathematician who explored much of the territory between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers in the late 1830s.  One of his trips was from Fort Pierre in South Dakota to Devils Lake.

What I love most about reading the accounts of these explorers are their notes about the weather.  Then, even more so than now, the weather was a powerful influence on their travels and well being.  Joseph Nicollet in particular on several occasions noted the ferociousness of the thunderstorms, the quickness of their movements and how they would temporarily flood the landscape slowing his travels.  Plus, he also mentioned two other things that were ferocious, the mosquitoes and the wind.

The prairie has changed dramatically in the past 170 years, but some things certainly have remained the same.