Fake Weather

The number of fake articles about weather being passed around through social media on the internet is growing.  This is concerning because misleading information about weather can be expensive or even dangerous if people make decisions based on it.  This is also concerning because the growing trend suggests that people are becoming increasingly gullible to such things.  If people increasingly believe in whatever blips onto their smartphone screens then we have a problem.  From fake forecasts to ridiculous seasonal outlooks to junk science on either side of climate change, there is a lot of misinformation out there.  My advice is this; do not believe everything you read.  If something is complicated and an explanation comes along that makes it simple, it is probably wrong. Be cautious with information.  Question your own knowledge before you become guilty of passing this garbage along to others.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

The Year of the Flood in Media

Floods, not tornadoes, continue to be the weather disaster theme of 2014.  The extra-tropical remnants of Hurricane Odile spreading soaking and occasionally torrential rain across the Desert Southwest is just another example of flooding in the United States this year.  While the flooding has made news, it should be pointed out that the number of floods and the severity of the floods recorded this year are nothing out of the ordinary.  But with the Atlantic hurricane season very quiet and with the number of tornadoes this year well below average, most of the weather coverage in the news has been of flooding.  Probably the most anomalous and significant weather disaster anywhere in the United States this year is the ongoing multiyear drought in southern California.     Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

 

Weather, Climate Keep Changing

Weather swings naturally from wet to dry and back to wet again.  Since 1993, local precipitation has been 15-20 per cent higher than the previous 100 years. There was a twelve year drought here from 1929-1940 when precipitation was 15-20 per cent lower than the long-term average.  But there are climate swings that cannot be observed even in a human lifetime.  For example, salinity measurements of the sediments of Moon Lake near Cleveland, North Dakota, reveal a climate shift approximately 750 years ago.  For at least 1000 years prior to that, long-term megadroughts were much more common in North Dakota and the climate was generally much drier than it is now.  It was likely even drier than the climate today across western North Dakota and eastern Montana.  What we perceive to be “normal” weather today has not always been that way and we should not assume it will remain.           Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

 

Early-Season Cold Coming Later

Of all the months of the year, September may be the most skewed in terms of record low temperatures in Fargo Moorhead.  All the September record lows are old.  The most recent was 41 years ago on September 16, 1973. Of the 30 days in September, twelve date back to the 1880s with an amazing six set in 1885 alone during a remarkable seven-day stretch of early season cold September 1-7.  Five of the remaining record lows were set in the 1890s for a total of 17 out of the 30 record lows of the month still dating to the 1800s.  The remaining 13 record lows are scattered randomly, one or two most decades, until 1973.  And then there have been no September record lows since then.  Not surprisingly, this 41-year ongoing void of September record lows accompanies a trend of the average first frost date moving about two weeks later from its average a few decades ago.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Fairly Average Temperatures

The month of August has the interesting characteristic of having had an average temperature precisely equal to the 30 year average.  Considering that June was exactly one degree above the average and July was 1.6 degrees below the average, it can be said that we had an average summer.  The daily high temperatures were a tad below average while the daily low temperatures were a tad above average.  This continues a trend of recent years of cooler days and warmer nights which is a factor of increased humidity. Rainfall was 1.79 inches above average in June, 1.15 inches below average in July, and 0.45 inches below average in August.  The wet start and dry finish equals out to a mere 0.19 inches above average for the summer.  Summer rain amounts were typically variable and so specific locations may be significantly wetter or drier than Hector Airport.      Meteorologist John Wheeler

WE Fest Weather

It can and does rain at WE Fest.  But the annual Lakes Area gathering does not have a reputation for stormy weather like Rib Fest and the Red River Valley Fair do.  This has a lot to do with the calendar.  WE Fest happens in August when our weather is more likely to be dry than in June and July.  Of course, weather is inherently unpredictable and can challenge the concept of “typical” and “normal.” That being said, June is typically our stormiest month and our rainiest month of the year.  July is typically the second rainiest month in terms of total rainfall but the number of rainy days in July is fewer than in June.  August is actually just the fifth rainiest month of the year (behind June, July, May, and September) with less rainfall and the fewest rainy days of any of the fair weather months.  Se WE Fest has situated itself well in a time of year when the weather is likely to be favorable.  Of course, rain and thunderstorms are certainly possible in August.  Severe storms and even tornadoes are possible in August.  It is just that these things are less likely in August than in any other time of the summer.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Cool Day in Death Valley

On Sunday, August 3, the Furnace Creek weather station in Death Valley, CA, recorded a high temperature of 89 degrees.  This was the first August day with a high temperature below 90 degrees since 1984 and broke the daily record low maximum temperature by 15 degrees. Early Sunday morning, the weather was typically hot with temperatures in the upper 80s.  But it was cloudy, which is very rare.  Thick clouds from decayed thunderstorms were blowing in from the southeast, the only direction without a mountain range to block the weather.  The clouds persisted and eventually rain showers developed.  The rain-cooled air kept the temperature from rising all day.  On social media, many people have been taking advantage of this unusual record to suggest that this weather either proves or disproves their political opinions regarding climate change.  Both political sides were equally involved.  But it actually proves nothing.  It was just a rare weather situation.  After all, the same thing happened in 1984.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Wet or Dry?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

July rainfall at the official Fargo Moorhead gauge at Hector International Airport was 1.69 inches.  This is 1.10 inches below the average of 2.79 inches.  So it was dry but not extremely dry.  And, of course, above average rainfall in June has carried us pretty well.  Amounts vary, of course, as is typical.  Grand Forks received 3.70 inches in July and that area is still very wet.  I got a call last week from a man who farms 30 miles west of Fargo who measured just 0.45 inches of rain in July.  He told me it was his driest July in 27 years of measuring.  This illustrates the random nature of summer precipitation.  Because thunderstorms can drop heavy rain in one spot and entirely miss another spot a few miles away, it becomes difficult to talk in general terms about it being wet or dry in summer.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

 

The American Monsoon

July and August is the time of the American Monsoon.  During June and early July, the desert areas from northern Mexico northward into the Rocky Mountain States heat up from day after day of sunny weather.  Temperatures reach well into the 100s at lower elevations, and sometimes into the 110s and 120s in parts of Arizona and California.  The hot air becomes less dense (with lower barometric pressure).  During July and August, air moves in from all around in response to the lower pressure, but mountain ranges block much of this movement except for a stream of tropical air from the eastern Pacific which comes by way of the Gulf of Baja.  The higher humidity in this air leads to frequent thunderstorm activity over the mountains of the Southwest.  Ironically, this is also the peak of the Southwestern fire season as some of the mountain storms produce lots of lightning and very little rain.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Neither Hot Nor Cold Here

Hot weather has been hardly noticeable this summer.  Of the six 90 degree days so far in 2014, three came in May when humidity was low.  The other three 90 degree days all occurred in July and coincided with dew points in the 70s and so were undeniably hot and humid.  But there have been just three such days.  However, the lack of hot afternoons is not reflected in thel average temperature of the summer.  While this summer’s high temperatures have been running generally cooler than average, the summer’s low temperatures have been slightly above average.  Twice this past month, Fargo Moorhead has recorded high temperatures in the 60s.  Both were close to setting the daily record low maximum temperature record of the day.  However, we have not been close to any daily record low minimum temperatures this summer.    John Wheeler

Meanwhile, the Middle West, the Great Lakes, and the Mid-South regions have all been having a cooler than average summer.  On the other hand, it has been a hot summer throughout the American West.  Driving this pattern is a huge region of warmer than average sea surface temperatures across the northern and eastern Pacific.  You may have caught news of a rare summer lightning strike from a thunderstorm in Venice, California, earlier this week.  Warm ocean temperatures off the usually cool California coast helped create that storm. Because the Polar Jet Stream is formed above the region of greatest temperature contrast, the warm water in the North Pacific is keeping the Polar Jet further north over the Pacific and western North America but then it dives southward across the Northern Plains.  This is why the summer has been cool to our east and hot to our west.    Locally, we have tended to go back and forth from warm to cool with very little extreme heat.  This is all due to the placement of the Jet Stream which is due to the pool of warm water in the North Pacific.        Meteorologist John Wheeler