Our Warmest Record Lows

The period of record for Fargo Moorhead weather is 135 years from 1881 to the present.  So for each day of the year, there are 135 different examples.  Over the entire calendar, the warmest daily record low is 46 degrees set twice on July 25, 1900, and July 27, 1971.  So there is no single date in the calendar in which the temperature in Fargo Moorhead has not reached at least 46 degrees.

Over the entire summer, there are just 46 dates on which the temperature has never fallen below 40 degrees within the period of record.  The majority of these dates are in July.  In fact, there are only four record lows below 40 degrees for July.  These are July 1, 2001 at 39; July 3, 1967, and 36; July 4, 1967, at 37; and July 30, 1971, at 39.

Solving a Water Problem

During a recent multi-year drought, the people of the arid nation of Israel figured out a way to solve its water problems.  By using the most modern desalinization techniques and by recycling urban and agricultural waste water, Israel has reduced its need for fresh water by half.

According to an article by Isabel Kershner in the New York Times, five new desalinization plants will soon be creating 200 billion gallons of drinkable water a year.  More than 85 per cent of this domestic water is recycled and reused for agriculture.  These processes are expensive, but water is a precious commodity, especially in a desert nation.

California, which has its own share of water shortage problems, is making some attempts as desalinization, but the projects are controversial because of the cost.  Ultimately, as populations grow, desalinization and recycling water may prove to be the best solutions for some areas.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Century Scorchers

The last time it was 100 degrees in Fargo Moorhead (officially) was July 20, 2012.  Century days are not that common here and are far more likely during dry summers than in wet summer because of the ability for dry soil to get hot in the sun.

A quick scan of all the daily record highs shows that 100 degree days are most common in July and August.  All but nine of the days in July carry a record high of at least 100.  All but ten of the days in August have a peak day of at least 100.  There are only seven June dates with a record high of 100.  There are four in September and one each in May and April.

The earliest 100 degree day was April 21, 1980, and the latest was 101 on September 21, 1936.  The hottest record high (and, therefore, the all-time record high) is 114 degrees set July 6, 1936.  The North Dakota state record of 121 degrees was set that same day in Steele.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


July Is the Peak

July is to summer weather what January is to winter.  It is the pinnacle.  It is the hottest month of the year, on average.  For the month, the average high temperature is 82.5 degrees and the average low is 59.5 degrees.  (These numbers are cool compared to most places in the United States, of course.)

The peak of the average temperature is actually at the end of July into early August.  The most notoriously hot heat wave in our history happened in July of 1936, when it was 100 degrees or hotter for eight straight days.

July can be either wet or dry, owing in a large part to the frequently heavy but usually widely scattered thunderstorms we tend to get in mid-summer.  Average rainfall in July is 2.79 inches, down significantly from the 3.90 inch average in June.  July is, by far, the sunniest month of the year.  On average, there are 10.1 sunny days, 13.4 partly cloudy days, and only 8.1 cloudy days in July

Complaints About Humidity

It takes a lot for most people to call or email a broadcast meteorologist to complain about the weather.  Everybody knows we don’t actually create the stuff.  Yet people do, from time to time, call with an angry tone to find out when a particular weather pattern will change.

Interestingly enough, it is not our bitter winter wind chills that bring out the worst in the weather complainers.  Even when the Wind Chill factor is down into the minus 40s, people seem to just deal with it.  However, as soon as we get a couple of days of hot and sticky humidity, a lot of people’s inner crabbiness is set free.

I get more complaints about high humidity than any other kind of weather.  “When is this disgusting humidity going away?”  “Can’t you do something about this awful weather, please?”  Unfortunately, our climate has been getting warmer in winter and more humid in summer.  And for a lot of people in our region, this is the worst news possible.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Hot Summer in Alaska

Alaska is having a hot summer, relatively speaking.  Temperatures across the 49th State have been consistently in the 70s and 80s this month across all but the North Slope and western areas adjacent to the Bering Sea.

There are two primary reasons for the early summer heat wave.  A lack of snow this past winter has resulted in a significant drying of Alaska’s normally marshy soil.  Plus, the weather pattern has favored warm temperatures.  A lack of rain is accompanying this northern heat wave, creating a concern that this could be a very bad year for forest fires.

The warm temperatures are probably welcome to many Alaskans, many of whom endure winters much longer and, at least, as cold as ours.  But few Alaska homes and businesses are built with air conditioning.  Most of the time, unusual weather, even pleasantly unusual weather, tends to create problems for those who live through it.

Not So Hot

Although the overall climate in and around Fargo Moorhead has been on a several-decade long warming trend, the trend in summertime has been generally toward cooler, more humid, and rainier weather.  Actually, precipitation is up year around.  Fargo Moorhead has experienced a more than fifteen per cent increase in annual precipitation over the past three decades, and a lot of that increase is in summer when our heaviest precipitation falls.  The added rainfall is fueled, partially, by the increase in summertime humidity.  But this works both ways.  The additional summer rainfall produces more puddles and wetter soil which leads to increased evaporation and more rain.  The puddles and wet soil affect the temperature, also.  Temperatures around 100 degrees are very hard to achieve when the soil is wet.  Summer nighttime temperatures have risen slightly in recent years due to the higher humidity, but this is more than offset by there being fewer hot afternoons.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Northern Plains Biggest Outbreak of Tornadoes

Twelve people died from the Fargo tornado on June 20, 1957.  In Fergus Falls, 57 people were killed by twin tornadoes on June 22, 1919.  Thirteen died during the Fridley (Twin Cities) tornado outbreak of May 6, 1965.  But the biggest outbreak of tornadoes on record in this region happened just five years ago on June 17, 2010.  There were 76 tornadoes that day; 22 in North Dakota, 48 in Minnesota, and three each in Iowa and Wisconsin.  The 48 in Minnesota is a record number of tornadoes in a single day.  Wadena, MN, took a direct hit and was heavily damaged. Two were killed and nine injured across the region but the casualty list would have been much higher had the tornadoes formed over more populated territory.  This remains the biggest outbreak of tornadoes on record for the summer months.  Most high-count tornado outbreaks happen in spring.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


One Wet May


The Monitoring Branch of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information has declared this past month as the wettest May in the United States over 121 years of record-keeping.  Although many parts of the West Coast region as well as most of the Southeast region were significantly drier than average, the wet spots won out.  The wettest region, relative to average, was the Great Plains from Texas to North Dakota, with rainfall in May about 200 to 300 per cent of normal.  The states of North Dakota and Texas had their wettest May months on record.  Across North Dakota, the month of May was rainy enough to turn a very dry March and April into the 37th wettest spring since 1895.  Weather was also wet in the Great Basin, Arizona, and New Mexico.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Not So Stormy (So Far)

The severe thunderstorm season has gotten off to a rather slow start in our region.  Severe storms require a combination of humidity, instability, and upper level wind structure that our region has not had much of so far this spring.  Through the middle of June, there have only been a relatively small number of very brief and local hailstorms and, so far, just one brief tornado touchdown (no damage) in all of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.  During May, our weather was very rainy but it was not very stormy.  Further south, severe storms were frequent.  The preliminary national tornado count in May is 414; the most in years.  So far in June, however, the tornado count has fallen off across the Plains.  After two very stormy summers in 2010 and 2011, there has been relatively little severe weather in our region for three summers in a row.  And though 2015 has been calm so far, it is still only the middle of June and our severe storm season here lasts all summer long.

Meteorologist John Wheeler