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

Anniversary of Rare June Heat Wave

This week in 1995, our region was experiencing a rare early summer heat wave.  For eight days, from June 14-21, the high temperature in Fargo Moorhead reached at least 90 degrees.  This included six consecutive days and nights in which the temperature never went lower than 70 degrees even at night.  The hottest day during the stretch was June 17 when it reached 100 degrees.  Temperatures of 100 degrees or warmer are extremely rare in the Fargo area during June.  With records going back to 1881 this has only happened a few times, mostly in the 1930s.  Long stretches of 90 degree days in June are also rare, as are long stretches of nights above 70 degrees.  Such hot weather is much more common in July and August.  Though not something that should be expected every year, mid to late summer temperatures of 100 or higher have happened roughly once every two to three years on average going back to 1881.  Meteorologist John Wheeler

Heat Wave of 1988

So far this June there has been no hot weather.  It was a different story 22 years ago.  June of 1988 was the hottest June in the history of Fargo Moorhead weather.  The average high temperature that June was 85 degrees.  There were 13 days in the 90s, 14 days in the 80s, two days in the 70s, and one rainy day in the 60s.  Most of the days were sunny and stiflingly hot.  Rainfall was scant.  There were just five days with rain totaling just 1.24”.  The only significant rain of the month fell on June 14 when 0.69” fell.  That day was also the only day with a high temperature below 70 degrees.  The heat waves continued throughout the summer with a total of 39 days at or above 90 degrees compared to the average of 13 days.  There were also four days over 100 degrees.  In the more distant past, the summer of 1936 had ten days over 100 but only 38 days above 90.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

Icy Lake Superior

Courtesy of images on the World Wide Web, a lot of attention has been drawn to the fact that many parts of Lake Superior still have chunks of ice floating in it.  While this is certainly later than average, this is not even approaching any kind of record.  The record for ice breakup in the Duluth Harbor is June 28, 1876.  There are records from several other years of significant ice well into June.  The problem with getting information from uncontrolled sources such as social media and random web sites is that it is too easy to be persuaded by an image and a caption if you do not have any factual perspective.  Then the image and caption are passed around to masses of people, most of whom also lack factual perspective, and the misinformation is rapidly spread.  Misinformation is not new.  It just spreads faster than it did in the past.   Meteorologist John Wheeler