The Year Without a Summer

It is well-known that large volcanic eruptions can have a significant effect on world weather due to the introduction of sun-blocking sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.  The Krakatoa eruption of 1883 likely contributed to a string of very cold years in the middle and late 1880s. The Pinatubo eruption of 1991 preceded Fargo Moorhead’s coldest summer in 75 years in 1992. The 1815 Tambora eruption has, for decades, been associated with the infamous 1816 “Year Without a Summer,” in which summertime snow and frost caused crop failures across New England as well as many parts of Europe.  Newly rediscovered writings from a South American scientist produced evidence of a strong eruption in Columbia in 1808 which likely added to the Tambora cooling.  According to other geological data as well as limited record keeping of crops, the first two decades of the 1800s produced some of the coldest years of the past several hundred years and this new evidence helps explain why.   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

 

Tornadoes #14 and #15

Friday evening, September 19, a supercell thunderstorm produced a sequence of two tornadoes in northwestern Minnesota.  The first tornado touched down near Northcote and on U.S. 75 and travelled east, crossing U.S. 59 south of Lancaster before lifting and travelling a bit further as a funnel cloud.  There was quite a bit of damage to a number of farm buildings in central Kittson County.  The tornado earned an EF2 rating, indicating peak winds between 111 and 135 mph.  the storm then produced a second tornado which traveled several miles across western Roseau County west of Greenbush.  This storm was earned an EF1 rating, suggesting winds between 86 mph and 110 mph.  Though neither tornado would have been considered a “monster” storm, it was an impressive feat for so late in the storm season.  Despite the late-season tornadoes, 2014 continues to be a relatively benign year for tornadoes in our region.  Those two tornadoes Friday were only the fourteenth and fifteenth tornadoes this year over eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, and the first since July.    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

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

The Year of the Flood in Media

Floods, not tornadoes, continue to be the weather disaster theme of 2014.  The extra-tropical remnants of Hurricane Odile spreading soaking and occasionally torrential rain across the Desert Southwest is just another example of flooding in the United States this year.  While the flooding has made news, it should be pointed out that the number of floods and the severity of the floods recorded this year are nothing out of the ordinary.  But with the Atlantic hurricane season very quiet and with the number of tornadoes this year well below average, most of the weather coverage in the news has been of flooding.  Probably the most anomalous and significant weather disaster anywhere in the United States this year is the ongoing multiyear drought in southern California.     Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

 

From Hot to Not

One year ago, the weather at the start of the school year caused controversy for being so hot.  Hot and humid weather forced many schools across North Dakota to close for several days.  From August 25 through September 15 last year, Fargo Moorhead had six days in the 90s and seven in the 80s.  There were seven more days in the 70s and just two in the 60s.  This year, over the same time period, there have been no days in the 90s and just four in the 80s.  There have been eleven days in the 70s, three in the 60s, and four days with highs in the 50s.  Weather over this 25-day period has shifted from about three degrees above average to three degrees below average.  It is not always hot at the beginning of the school year.  However, it is still much more likely to be hot in late August and early September than it is in late May and early June.     Meteorologist John Wheeler

More Aurora

There have been a few nights recently in which the Northern Lights have been visible across our area.  Auroras are common near Earth’s magnetic poles where the magnetic field concentrates the effect.  To get them this far south, it requires an explosion on the sun’s surface (coronal mass ejection) which sends a huge wave of highly charged particles toward Earth.  Aurora have been noticeably absent from our region for the last ten years or so because the sun has been quiet and there have been fewer solar storms.  But the solar “weather” is becoming active again so we will likely have many more opportunities to see the Northern Lights this fall.  Coronal mass ejections are reported so auroras can be forecast. Watch for notices on WDAY.  They are best viewed on a clear night without a bright moon, away from city lights.  Look to the north-northeast.  Although rare, sometimes they can become exceptionally brilliant and cover the sky.    Meteorologist John Wheeler

 

Weather, Climate Keep Changing

Weather swings naturally from wet to dry and back to wet again.  Since 1993, local precipitation has been 15-20 per cent higher than the previous 100 years. There was a twelve year drought here from 1929-1940 when precipitation was 15-20 per cent lower than the long-term average.  But there are climate swings that cannot be observed even in a human lifetime.  For example, salinity measurements of the sediments of Moon Lake near Cleveland, North Dakota, reveal a climate shift approximately 750 years ago.  For at least 1000 years prior to that, long-term megadroughts were much more common in North Dakota and the climate was generally much drier than it is now.  It was likely even drier than the climate today across western North Dakota and eastern Montana.  What we perceive to be “normal” weather today has not always been that way and we should not assume it will remain.           Meteorologist John Wheeler