First Frosts Coming Later

With our weather expected to remain generally mild for a while longer, it is likely the Fargo Moorhead area will again make it into October without frost. We had a miserably cold spring this year, so it is nice that the weather is extending the growing season a bit on this other end.  Interestingly, this is becoming the new normal.  Back in the 1880s when weather record keeping began in Fargo Moorhead, the first frost of fall was usually in early September and sometimes in late August.  Over the past three decades, the average first frost date has shifted to September 30.  Over the past ten years, only two have had a frost in September.  The rest were all in October.  Although in 2004, it did get to 34 degrees August 20 and some light frost was observed on rooftops.  And while our fall frosts are happening later and later, there has been little movement of the average last frost of spring.  It remains about May 8.       Meteorologist John Wheeler

Late-Season Hot Temperatures

On September 22, 1936, it was 101 degrees in Fargo Moorhead.  This is the latest 100 degree day ever recorded here.  The record highs for each day are mostly in the 90s through October 6, after which the record highs are in the 80s until one rogue 90 degree day shows up from October 17, 1910.  The latest 80 degree day in the books was set on October 25, 1989, at 83 degrees.  The latest 70 degree day was the 73 degree day set November 1953.  The latest day in the 60s was the 65 degree afternoon on December 6, 1939.  The coldest record high for any day is 40 degrees, for several different days in January.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

 

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

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

Early Frost Forecasts Often Fail

Should a frost occur in the cool weather pattern expected later this week, it would be earlier than average, but not unusually so. Our region usually gets a few mornings close to freezing in September before the actual first frost.  In 2012, it got to 36 degrees September 9.  In 2011, it got to 34 on the 14th and actually got to 30 on the 15th.  In 2010, there were three nights in the mid 30s on the 8th, 16th, and 18th.  Back in 2009, it was 37 on August 30.  But the only year among the last five with even a moderately early frost was on the 15th in 2011.  Last year, it never even got below 40 until October 12 but it ended up being a cold winter.  So it is more likely to be close to freezing later this week than actually 32.  And even if there is a light frost late this week, it will have no bearing on the upcoming winter season.      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

Tornado Lawsuit

The monster EF-5 tornado which struck Joplin, MO, in May of 2011 killed 161 people.  Eight of those killed lost their lives in a Home Depot store.  Store employees were directing customers to a training room for safety when winds estimated at 165 mph ripped the roof off the store, causing most of the unsupported 100,000 pound concrete walls to fall down.  After the storm, engineers criticized the tilt-up wall method used to construct the store, saying such buildings are prone to collapse in high winds if the roof fails.  Now a Joplin, MO, woman whose husband and two children were killed in the store is suing Home Depot for negligence.  Whether or not the lawsuit has any merit, this does bring up an interesting question about responsible building construction.  Just how much weather should building codes prepare for?  If someone is killed when weather causes a public or semi-public building to fail, how much of the responsibility is on the owner?  What about the builder?  What about the person who was killed?  Meteorologist John Wheeler

Late Summer Heat Wave

Do you remember the hullabaloo last year over whether or not schools should start up in mid to late August or wait until after Labor Day?  The discussion was initiated when eight of the last 13 days of August, 2013, were in the 90s; four of those days between 94 and 96 degrees.  The Fargo Public School District did rearrange this year’s schedule to start a week later than planned, on August 27.  The weather can still be hot in late August and even in September, but the likelihood of getting into the 90s is statistically much greater on the 20th of August than it is on the 27th.   Could we get a late summer heat wave again this year?  The pattern makes this less likely but not impossible.  Those 13 days at the end of August, 2013, were the hottest 13 days of the year.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

Rain-Wrapped Tornado

The National Weather Service found evidence of a tornado within the widespread straight-line wind damage left behind after the Monday night storm.  The damage path is approximately 28 miles long through Polk and Red Lake counties and was discovered by the nature of the damage; debris was lifted higher and thrown further in a manner usually associated with tornadoes.  No one actually saw the tornado because it was entirely wrapped in heavy rain and was surrounded by a large area of very strong non-tornado wind.  A few people along did report hearing the “freight train roar” often associated with tornadoes, butthis sound can sometimes be heard in strong straight line wind storms as well.  Rain-wrapped tornadoes are not common in the northern Plains but are more common in the South where more humid environments often produce more widespread rain around tornadoes.  Rain-wrapped tornadoes are often difficult to detect except by Doppler radar, and the National Weather Service did have a tornado Warning in effect at the time.  This illustrates the need for people to take all Tornado Warnings seriously.  Fortunately, there were no injuries Monday night.

The tornado was a part of a huge thunderstorm complex which produced wind damage along a more than 500 mile path through North Dakota and Minnesota into northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.  It began Monday afternoon and lasted into early Tuesday.  The storm complex, called a derecho, happens from time to time when hot and humid air in the lower atmosphere is topped by an upper air disturbance of higher winds and cooler temperatures.  The cool air aloft makes the air very unstable.  As the developing thunderstorms form into a line, some mechanism forces some of the stronger upper-level wind down to the ground. This condition can continue for hours, causing near-continuous wind damage.  In the Monday night storm, the mechanism responsible for forcing the wind was a small area of low pressure which formed over northeast North Dakota and then continued to move east with the storm.

By far, most of the wind damage Monday night was due to straight-line wind.  There were many reports of wind speeds estimated to be in the 60 to 80 mph range.  The tornado produced wind in this range as well, along with a few locations of 110-120 mph wind, all in Polk County near and southwest of Crookston.  The 110+ mph wind allow for the tornado to get an EF-2 rating.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Cold Winters, Cool Summers

From now through the middle of August is the hottest time of year in our region.  And that is not saying much.  The smoothed daily average high temperature is in in the 80s, peaking at 83 degrees for about three weeks from mid-July into August.  Even during our summer peak, any day is statistically more likely to be in the 70s than in the 90s.  We average 13 days a year of 90 degree temperatures.  On average, eleven of those days happen during July and August.  We only get to 100 degrees once every few years.  The last time was in 2012 and the last time before that was in 2006.  Before 1993, when it started raining more, 100 degree days were more common, but still happened less than once a year on average.  People say we live in a region of cold winters and hot summers.  They are right about the winters but our summers are generally quite cool.     Meteorologist John Wheeler