August Frosts

A smattering of low temperatures in the upper 30s across our region Tuesday morning (Fargo Moorhead was 42.) has raised a few questions about early frosts.  Yes, there is some history of August frost in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

The most recent siting of frost in Fargo Moorhead was on August 20, 2004.  The temperature at Hector International Airport registered 34 degrees but frost was visible on many rooftops and car hoods and a few gardens did receive light frost damage.

Another early nip happened on August 27 of 1982.  The Hector thermometer registered 33 degrees that morning.

The 1960s was generally a very cold decade and there were early light frosts on August 13, 1964 (33 degrees) and August 14, 1968 (35 degrees).

The Fargo Moorhead record has only two actual freezing temperatures on record in August.  It was 32 degrees on August 25, 1885, and on August 31, 1886.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Not So Hot

In our part of the country, many people associate temperatures of 90 degrees or higher as being a sort of statistical boundary between our regular warm summer weather and what is considered “hot.”  Fargo Moorhead experiences an average of about 13 days a year at 90 degrees or higher.  The greatest number of 90 degree days was 39 in 1988.  Last summer there were only three.

Days of 100 degrees or hotter have historically occurred at a pace slightly lower than once every two summers.  However, these hottest of hot days are tied closely to soil moisture and there have been so many wet summers in recent years that 100 degree weather has become rare.  Since the summer of 1989, there have only been four days of 100 degree heat. The last was July 20, 2012.  Previous to that, there were two century days in July of 2006, and one in June of 1995.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


Highest Humidity

Dew point temperatures in the 60s and 70s since last weekend have certainly caused a midsummer feel to the air.  Here in the Northern Plains, we do not get as much humidity as they do in the southern and eastern United States, where dew points in the 70s are common all summer long.  (And where summers are much longer.)  Once in a great while, under just the right conditions, dew points in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest will reach into the 80s.

The highest humidity in the world is along the Persian Gulf.  On July 8, 2003, in Dhahran, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia, the dew point reached 95 degrees. The temperature at the time was 107 degrees.  The Heat Index calculates to 176 degrees under these conditions.

The next time you find yourself complaining about our humidity, imagine being in the incessant sunshine along the Persian Gulf under these conditions.  And with ocean water temperatures in the 90s, there would be no way to cool off.


Meteorologist John Wheeler

The Worst Heat Wave

The worst heat wave on record in the Fargo Moorhead area was in July of 1936.  For two weeks, high temperatures ranged from the middle 90s to 114 degrees.  Nine of those days were in the 100s, including eight in a row.  A few of the nights did not even cool below 80 degrees.

Conditions during the day were almost intolerable.  Afternoon winds in the 15-25 mph range combined with temperatures in the 100s to produce conditions close enough to that inside a blast furnace.  The breeze continued most nights at around 10-20 mph.  The weather was not particularly humid but there was no escaping the heat.  The sky was mostly clear with a few passing high, cirrus clouds.

Few homes had air-conditioners in the 1930s.  In fact, much of rural North Dakota and Minnesota was still without electricity.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


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.

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


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.

Fargo Moorhead Factoids

You know those internet/social networking things that lure you into clicking with tantalizing facts that end up being banal.  Yeah, this is one of those, but without the pop up ads.  Here are fifteen facts about Fargo Moorhead weather.  Average annual precipitation is 22.58 inches.  Rainiest month on average is June. Average snowfall in winter is 50.1 inches.  Snowiest month on average is January.  Average number of blizzards is three.  Average coldest temperature for the winter is 27 below.  Average number of 90 degree days a year is 13.  Hottest temperature record is 114 in 1936.  Coldest temperature recorded is 48 below in 1887.  Average high temperature in July is 82.5.  Average low temperature in January is 0.1.  Average temperature (day and night all year long) is 42.4 degrees.  There are an average of 168 cloudy days, 110 partly cloudy days, and 88 sunny days a year.

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