Another Summer of Thin Ice

Although the Arctic summer of 2014 was cooler and less stormy than average, Arctic sea ice reached its sixth lowest extent since 1978 according to The National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado.  On September 17, ice covered 1.94 million square miles, compared to the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles.  Ice cover on the Arctic Ocean always retreats in summer, usually reaching a minimum in September before cold weather causes the ice to rebuild.  Warming in recent years has contributed to a general decline in the amount of the Arctic Ocean covered in ice at the end of summer.  The ice will continue to increase through the fall and winter, before reaching a maximum coverage sometime next spring.  Arctic temperatures have been on the rise since the 1800s.  However, satellite measurement of Arctic ice has only been possible since the late 1970s.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Earliest Snow, Earliest Cold

On September 25, 1912, it snowed in Fargo Moorhead.  The summer of 1912 had been hot and very dry and the heat wave had continued into the early part of September.  Three of the first eight days in September were in the 90s.  But it began to rain September 12.  It rained on 12 of the next 14 days.  During this time, the weather turned remarkably cooler.  Daily high temperatures dropped into the 50s starting September 14.  There was a light frost on September 16.  On September 24 and 25, a steady rain accumulated to more than one inch with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees.  And late on September 25, the cold rain turned to snow, accumulating two inches on the ground during the night.  It remains the earliest measurable snow in Fargo Moorhead recorded history.

On September 26, 1965, it was 19 degrees in Fargo Moorhead.  The month of September, 1965, had been cool from the start.  It had been that cloudy, cool, dank weather that sometimes settles in during the fall for long periods.  Most days were in the 50s.  Frost had not happened due to the perpetually cloudy weather.  But on September 24, the sky cleared but it only warmed to 62 degrees.  That night, it turned unusually cold.  By midnight, the temperature had reached 29 degrees, and by morning it was 22.  The following day, September 25, it remained sunny but the high was just 55 degrees.  The following morning, the temperature bottomed out at 19 degrees.  This remains the earliest temperature in the teens in Fargo Moorhead weather history. The next three days, the clouds returned and highs were only in the 40s, but there was no more frost until early October.  The winter of 1965-66 was bitterly cold but is most famous for the terrible blizzard of March, 1966, considered by most climatologists to have been the strongest blizzard of the 20th Century on the Great Plains.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

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

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

What Really Is the Record?

Fargo Moorhead weather data has been measured and recorded at Hector Airport since February of 1942.  Prior to that, our weather was recorded at the National Weather Bureau Office in Moorhead, in what is now the Rourke Museum.  But I recently learned from Daryl Ritchison of the North Dakota Climate Office that sporadic record keeping actually had begun at the Fargo Airport in 1930, and meticulous, hourly weather records from Hector started in 1932.  This means there is a period of ten years during the Dust Bowl when there is a complete other set of weather records for this area.  The Moorhead data are the numbers used for the official record because that was the official site until 1942.  But the Fargo data appear to be good data.  One item that stands out is July 6, 1936.  The all-time record high for Fargo Moorhead of 114 degrees was set that afternoon.  However, over in Fargo, the unofficial instrument at Hector recorded 115 degrees for two consecutive hours that day.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

The Worst Heat Wave

At this time in 1936, our region was in the about to begin its most extreme heat wave on record.  For eleven straight days, from July 6-16, the high temperature in Fargo Moorhead was at least 99 degrees.  The average high during the period was 104 degrees.  Nine of the eleven days were in the 100s.  The hottest temperature during the heat wave was the 114 reading on July 6 which is still the hottest on record for Fargo Moorhead.  There was little relief at night, either.  Most morning lows were in the 70s and two mornings, July 10 and 11, were 82 and 80 degrees.  The heat withered crops and tested the endurance of people.  Most rural areas still had no electricity so there was not even a fan to use.  The remainder of that summer was hot and dry and there was one more 100 degree day on September 21.  The ten days of 100 degree weather are the most recorded in Fargo Moorhead  in one year.     Meteorologist John Wheeler

Where’s the Heat?

If you are as yet unsatisfied with our northern summer and require some real heat to get yourself into a summer frame of mind, may I recommend Las Vegas, Nevada or the surrounding desert of southern Nevada and California?  During June, 21 of the 30 days of the month were in the 100s, the hottest being 111 degrees June 30.  Nearby Needles, California, had just one day at 99 degrees and the other 29 were in the 100s.  At the weather station in Death Valley, the coolest day of the month was 103 and the hottest was 120 degrees.  Death Valley holds the record for the hottest properly measured (and officially recognized) temperature on Earth of 134 degrees set July 10, 1934.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

June Temperatures

June temperatures were close to average.  The average high was 77.5 degrees which is 0.1 degree above the three-decade mean.  The average low was 56.8 degrees which is 1.9 degrees above the three-decade mean.  This continues the trend observed over recent years of having the low temperatures warmer than the high temperatures, relative to the long term average.  This is another representation of our local climate being wetter than in the past.  The increase in rainfall leads to higher humidity and more clouds, all of which has a bigger impact on temperatures at night and less of an impact in the daytime.  The increase in average humidity also leads to fewer really hot days.  June had two days with highs in the 60s, 15 with highs in the 70s, and thirteen with highs in the 80s.  The warmest day last month was 89 on June 21. The coolest day was 66 degrees on June 6.  June had 12 mornings with lows in the 60s, 15 with lows in the 50s, and three with lows in the 40s. The coldest temperature was 44 degrees on June 8.  The warmest night was 69 degrees on June 27.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

June Wet and Stormy, Kind Of

June was a wet and stormy month.  Rivers are high from Manitoba to Tennessee.  Almost every evening on the national news there is coverage about all the severe storms this summer.  But the national tornado count on the Storm Prediction Center’s Annual Storm Summary web page shows that the last year to have had so few tornadoes through July 1 was 2005.  What about all the rain?  It has been wet but nowhere nearly as wet as it was in 1993.  June was a bad month in the Great Plains and Midwest for storms.  But June was certainly not record bad and it wasn’t really even unusually bad.   Instead, network news is just covering the heck out of stormy weather.  It is riveting and extremely popular.  Weather is good for ratings.  And while the coverage is well-intended and truthful, the viewers should not be persuaded by the sheer volume of storm coverage into thinking this summer is out of the ordinary.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Wet Year in Minneapolis

Average precipitation (rain and melted snow) in Minneapolis is 30.61 inches.  This is about eight inches more than our average annual precipitation in Fargo Moorhead of 22.58 inches.  Following a four inch rain on Thursday, the official Minneapolis weather station at the main Minneapolis airport has now received over 25 inches of precipitation since the start of the year.  This is more than four inches more (to date) than in any year on record, with records going back to the 1870s.  With half the year still to come, the annual precipitation record of 40.15 inches set in 1911 is in jeopardy of being broken.  Even with all the rain lately, Fargo Moorhead precipitation to date is about eleven and a half inches.  This is about 14 inches less than what has fallen in the Twin Cities.    Meteorologist John Wheeler