Measurable Snow Day

Although a moot point as this year we recorded our first measurable snowfall back on October 4, but today is marks our average first measurable snowfall.  Although today is the average date for our first snow accumulation, it has rarely snowed on Halloween.

Since snow records started in 1885, measurable snow has been observed on only 13 occasions, so approximately once every 10 years or so.  The last time we recorded measurable snow on this date was back in 1995 when 1 inch was measured.  The record snowfall for today is 3.4 inches that occurred in 1891.  With an average high today of only 48 degrees, wearing a costume that can be worn over something warm is commonplace in our climate.

Yet, at least in most years the kids (and parents) are only dealing with chilly temperatures, not snowfall as they are trick or treating.

A Sunny Place?

I was recently reading an article about the influx of new residents into North Dakota because of the overall good economy in the state.  In the story, a recent transplant was interviewed and there was one comment that caught my attention. This new resident to eastern North Dakota was impressed by how sunny the weather was here.

There is no doubt if you have only lived in this area for the past 12 months, the perception of a sunny climate would definitely be correct as the number of sunny days in the past year has been remarkable. Yet, the persistently cloudy sky these past several days has brought a touch of reality back to the area.  Fargo Moorhead, on average, will record a cloudy sky on approximately 60% of the days through the end of the year.

That was definitely not the case last autumn, but the weather patterns are much different this year, meaning some of our new neighbors may be disappointed with the sky conditions for a while.

Auto Publish

I discovered that some of my postings during my time off last week did not publish via “auto publish”.  I had some blogs set to publish when I was gone to spread them out a bit.   Therefore, I forced them to published this morning instead.  Sorry if it messed up your RSS feed to only see old dated posting coming out today.



October Surprises

The early October snowstorm prompted several inquiries as to the frequency of such events in the past.  An October 7 snowstorm in 1985 brought a significant snow to areas just north of Fargo Moorhead with Grand Forks recording 6 inches, Roseau 8 inches, Langdon 10 inches and Velva, North Dakota recording 17 inches.  October 1-2, 1950 brought 3-6 inches to areas near the Canadian border in both North Dakota and Minnesota.

From October 7-11, 1970, some parts of northern Minnesota had over a foot of snow that even produced some road closures.  A severe blizzard struck northwestern Minnesota on October 18-20, 1916.  Although, Fargo only recorded a trace and Grand Forks around 2 inches, other locations east of the Red River Valley were buried under 8-12 inches of snow from that event.  Plus, most of us are familiar with the severe blizzard that hit to our south on October 16-18 in 1880 that was made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book “The Long Winter”.

No Weather Guarantees

Certain terms gradually build into the common vernacular.  Each year the new words that are added to the Oxford Dictionary usually make big headlines on local and national news.  In weather, although many terms have been around for decades within the weather community, in recent years, certain terms have become common place in society.

The term Doppler would be a great example of this.  Another term that garners wide use is El Nino (the warming of equatorial waters in the Pacific Ocean).  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this past summer issued a forecast that an El Nino was likely to develop for this upcoming winter which prompted many individuals to email and talk to me about our upcoming mild winter.  Yet, there are serious doubts if an El Nino will develop (so far it has not), plus as we learned during the 2009-2010 winter, an El Nino is no guarantee of a “soft” winter.

The weather is far more complicated than a fancy term.

Cold First Half of October

Although the past two days were quite mild, as a whole, the first 15 days of October finished about 5 degrees below normal.  That is an incredible 19 degrees colder than the first half of October last year.   Although, it should be noted, that the first half of October 2011 was the warmest such period on record.  The second half of 2011 and much of this year recorded above average temperatures.

Then the past two months, August and September, finished near normal and the current pattern, at least for now, has transitioned to a cold one.   The last time with an extended period of below average temperatures was in May, 2011. Looking forward, it appears much of the rest of the month will record temperatures below normal, meaning that this month will likely be the coldest, based on the average, in 17 months.

This October has not only been cool, but also dry, with only 0.43 inches recorded through Monday which is 0.67 inches below average.

Lots of Ice

A few of weeks ago in this space, I mentioned that the sea-ice extent around Antarctica was near record levels, but came just short of surpasses the satellite era highest extent.  That all changed as the sea ice in the southern ocean, although seemly at peak in mid September, continued to expand and ended up breaking the old record set in 2007.

At maximum extent the sea ice in the southern hemisphere maxed out at roughly 7.51 million square miles on September 25.  Just as the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice minimum record that was broken this year was largely attributed to wind, especially with one powerful storm, the sea ice maximum in the southern ocean seems to have occurred because of favorable wind helping to maintain the ice pack.

Adequate satellite data to make sea-ice calculations has only been available since 1979; therefore, the term record in these instances should always be taken with a grain of salt.

Time is Running Out

The record high temperature for today is 86 degrees set back in 1963.  Our daily record highs will gradually diminish the rest of the month, yet remain above 70 degrees through the first week of November. This means that although it has been quite chilly lately, there is still potential for the area to squeeze in a few more warm days before the cold air becomes permanent.

The keyword in that sentence was potential, because although our record highs give us hints to what a pattern change could bring, the reality is our average last 70 degree day is October 17, just a few days from now.  Plus, even with a recent string of warmer than average autumns, Fargo Moorhead has not recorded a high temperature of 70 degrees or higher later than October 15 since 2006.

This all means that any temperature in the 60s should now be considered mild and if by chance we hit 70 again (Tuesday?), that would be a significant bonus.

Trade Winds

Today marks the 520th anniversary of Christopher Columbus landing on San Salvador Island in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus, like all sailors of his era, was a keen observer of the weather. It was earlier in his life when he made trips to the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa that he noticed that the dominate wind flow there was more easterly throughout most of the year, whereas in Europe the dominate wind direction was from a more westerly direction.

When he finally convinced the King of Spain to fund his trip in 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed south from Spain to the Canary Islands to restock his ships and make any needed repairs.  From there he followed what we now call the trade (easterly) winds to cross the Atlantic Ocean. On his return trip he knew to sail north to catch the more dominate westerly wind in the mid-latitudes.   Without the knowledge of the trade winds it would have been extremely difficult for Columbus to have completed what would have been a longer journey with his limited supplies.

Cloud Savers

The coldest temperature so far this season, through yesterday, was a 25 degree reading back on September 23.  If not for cloud cover on other mornings, we likely would have been much colder.  That has been particularly true in recent days.

This past Sunday morning for example, the low in Fargo was 30 degrees.  Much of the night was cloudy and that kept the cooling near the surface to a minimum, but where the sky cleared the temperature plummeted.  Aberdeen where it was clear, the temperatures fell to 14 degrees that morning.  Temperatures in the teens were found as far south as Iowa, with Sioux City recording 15 degrees and Spencer, 13 degrees.  All of those temperatures were records for the date.

Perhaps the most impressive low on Sunday morning was the 32 degree low in Tulsa, Oklahoma, as that was the earliest known freeze for that location.  Oklahoma City also recorded their earliest freeze on record the following day.  So although it has certainly been cold lately, thanks to cloud cover, no records have been broken.