Forecast For Winter

The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) issued its winter prediction this week and, based largely on the forecast of a weak El Nino developing, have given our area an increased likelihood of above normal temperatures for averaged from December through February.  This means they think it is more likely to be warmer than normal than near-normal or below-normal.   When it comes to long range winter forecasting, there is hardly a better indicator than the presence of El Nino or La Nina.  Unfortunately, even these are not as reliable as we would like them to be.  Conditions in the Pacific Ocean are neutral at the moment, but there are signs of a weak El Nino forming early in this winter.  The CPC has had more trouble than usual with winter forecasts lately because factors other than El Nino/La Nina have been trumping the winter weather regime.  The past few weeks, widespread, substantial snow cover has spread across most of Siberia, often a sign of a colder winter in our region.  In other words, we really do not know what the winter will bring.  Long range forecasting is not quite the same as guessing wildly, but it isn’t much better.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Memorable Early October Snow

On October 7, 1985, the Fargo Moorhead area just missed out on a major early season snowstorm.  Grand Forks got six inches from the storm, Roseau received eight inches, and Langdon got ten inches.  The heaviest snow fell in north-central North Dakota where Minot got a foot of snow and Velva received 17 inches.  The autumn of 1985 was much colder than average and, although most of that early snowfall melted within a few days, several major November snowstorms blanketed our entire region to a depth of one to three feet by Thanksgiving.  Here in Fargo Moorhead, the last five days in November were all below zero day and night.  Such a cold snap before December is unusual.  And though the weather remained cold until just before Christmas, most of January, February, and March brought above-average temperatures.  That was my first winter at WDAY and I remember it well.  The early snow and cold was exciting professionally, but a bit of a shock personally.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Winter Forecast (NOT!)

If you want to be both amused and annoyed, do an internet search of “winter forecast” and see what comes up.  You will read about El Nino and what it means this winter.  You will later stumble across other ideas about what it means which will severely contradict the earlier meanings.  You will read personal rants in various comments sections from people who know little about long-range forecasting but know a lot about how to shout when writing.  You will read about how last winter’s forecasts were right in some places and wrong in others.  You will stumble across the Old Farmer’s Almanac and recall how their forecast is almost never correct despite its claim that it is right 80 per cent of the time.  You will read their forecast and tell yourself you do not believe it but you will believe it a little.  After a while, you will get bored and find something else to look at.  In the end, you will have no idea how the upcoming winter will be.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

First Hard Freeze

The first hard freeze of fall is one of those truly great moments of the year.  So many things change that one morning.  So much of what had been growing and green turns dead, brown, and black and there is no way back from the first freeze in the fall.  Most years, the first hard freeze happens in October although occasionally it comes early, in September.  There are, of course, places on Earth that do not freeze in our present climate. In Key West, the vines and the palms just keep growing and people have to work to keep the jungle out of their yard. Southern California will get a killing freeze now and again.  But a northern killing freeze is a dependable, once-a-year, life-changing event.  It is a milestone and a harbinger and in that sense, some hate what it stands for.  But it always comes and it will come one morning soon and I will find comfort in not having to worry about my garden any more.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

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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