If you look at the so-called official precipitation data as measured at Hector Int’l Airport you will discover that 14.52 inches of rain and melted snow was recorded in 2012. That would make last year the 10th driest year on record, surpassing 1988 by 0.01 inches moving that year into 11th place. You will likely hear and read stories about 2012 finishing in the Top 10 driest years on record. Or did we?
When the National Weather Serviced moved from Fargo to Grand Forks in the mid 1990s and the official weather observations were transferred to an automated sensor at the airport, there was a problem. The sensor could not measure snowfall. Therefore, all snowfall data and liquid equivalency of that snow was done by a cooperative observer in north Moorhead.
That is, until two years ago when it was decided to use the airport for the liquid in the snow and the actual snow depth from north Moorhead. Yet, simply put, the airport equipment does a horrible job at determining the liquid in snow, so much so that starting January 1, 2013, the airport data will no longer be used when it snows, which was the old policy.
Unfortunately, the data from 2011 and 2012 does not represent the actual precipitation for this area very well and will probably be adjusted upwards. What this means is that instead of 2012 finishing as the 10th driest year on record, in reality it finished around the 15th-19th driest.