Senate Bill Would Reduce NWS

South Dakota Senator John Thune has authored a bill on Capitol Hill which proposes to radically change the makeup of the National Weather Service.  The bill would greatly reduce staffing in most offices and create six huge central forecast centers which would issue all the forecast products now issued by the 122 separate forecast offices spread around the country.  Most of these 122 smaller offices would still exist, but would no longer perform forecast duties.  Instead, the local offices would primarily operate the local Doppler radar, issue storm warnings, and provide information for local governments and emergency managers in times of bad weather. Environment Canada, the Canadian equivalent to our National Weather Service, is set up in this way with a small number of regional forecast offices.  The National Weather Service Employees Organization strongly opposes the bill.  A similar bill failed to pass in 2005.

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.

No A.C. Needed (Yet)

Just a week left of June and I have not even considered installing the three window air-conditioners in the bedrooms of my house.  I prefer to sleep with bedroom windows open in the summer during all but the hottest weather.  So far this summer, our one day of 90 degree weather (92 degrees on June 9) was preceded by as well as followed by nights that cooled into the 50s.  Although this lack of the desire of air-conditioning is lasting a little later into the summer than usual, the summer has not been unusually cool. In fact, the average temperature for June is running slightly above average.  The weather just hasn’t strung together a couple of consecutive hot days yet so we haven’t had a particularly warm night.  Our warmest night so far has been 61 degrees.  Along the Gulf Coast, that would be a record daily low this time of year.


When a line of thunderstorms becomes oriented underneath a fast jet stream, it is possible for some of the very high upper level wind energy to be transported down to the ground.  If this line of storms has a sustained influx of warm, humid air along its path, it is possible for this squall line to develop into a derecho (der-ace’- show); a long-lived, rapidly-moving line of thunderstorms with very dangerous wind.  Such a weather system developed over South Dakota Sunday night and moved across southern Minnesota and northern Iowa through Monday morning before falling apart over Illinois Monday afternoon.  Wind gusts of 70-90 mph were common along the path of the storms, including a gust to 122 mph at Hayes, SD, near Pierre. The storm passed over north-central and northeastern from sunrise through mid-morning, an unusual time for a severe thunderstorm.  A few derechoes happen almost every summer in the United States and are most common across the Northern Plains from late June through mid-August.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

Not So Hot

Although the overall climate in and around Fargo Moorhead has been on a several-decade long warming trend, the trend in summertime has been generally toward cooler, more humid, and rainier weather.  Actually, precipitation is up year around.  Fargo Moorhead has experienced a more than fifteen per cent increase in annual precipitation over the past three decades, and a lot of that increase is in summer when our heaviest precipitation falls.  The added rainfall is fueled, partially, by the increase in summertime humidity.  But this works both ways.  The additional summer rainfall produces more puddles and wetter soil which leads to increased evaporation and more rain.  The puddles and wet soil affect the temperature, also.  Temperatures around 100 degrees are very hard to achieve when the soil is wet.  Summer nighttime temperatures have risen slightly in recent years due to the higher humidity, but this is more than offset by there being fewer hot afternoons.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

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



Mosquitoes have been a bother the past couple of weeks, owing to the ideal egg-hatching puddles which are the product of flat terrain, clay in the soil, and rain.  Here are a few things about mosquitoes.  They exist in the fossil record all the way back to the Jurassic period over 200 million years ago. Mosquitoes account for more deaths each year (more than a million) than any other animal on Earth due to the malaria virus it can carry in its saliva.  There are more than three thousand different kinds of mosquitoes.  Mosquitoes are attracted by the carbon dioxide we exhale.  Only female mosquitoes bite.  Males eat nectar. When a female mosquito sucks your blood, she also gives you a small amount of her saliva which contains an anticoagulant.  It is your reaction to the chemicals in the saliva that cause the bump and the itch.   Some people react to the bites worse than others.  Some people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others.

Meteorologist John Wheeler

How Good Is the Info?


As you drive across the countryside and your phone temperature changes, have you ever stopped to consider where that temperature comes from?  In this world of instant data that we live in, it is proper to take a minute and consider the quality of some of this data.  For decades, many businesses, particularly banks, have displayed current temperature signs, and the accuracy of these has always been inconsistent.  The top of a tarred, flat roof is a notoriously poor place to measure air temperature.  Nowadays our cars have dashboard thermometers and these also provide questionable data.  The current weather conditions offered by your is not necessarily reliable, either.  The WDAY yourcast weather app offers the latest conditions from the nearest National Weather Service weather station.  But many phone apps use modelled data.  It is actually a forecast from the past being used to represent the present.  It is probably pretty close, but it is not a measured reading.


Meteorologist John Wheeler

Not So Stormy (So Far)

The severe thunderstorm season has gotten off to a rather slow start in our region.  Severe storms require a combination of humidity, instability, and upper level wind structure that our region has not had much of so far this spring.  Through the middle of June, there have only been a relatively small number of very brief and local hailstorms and, so far, just one brief tornado touchdown (no damage) in all of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.  During May, our weather was very rainy but it was not very stormy.  Further south, severe storms were frequent.  The preliminary national tornado count in May is 414; the most in years.  So far in June, however, the tornado count has fallen off across the Plains.  After two very stormy summers in 2010 and 2011, there has been relatively little severe weather in our region for three summers in a row.  And though 2015 has been calm so far, it is still only the middle of June and our severe storm season here lasts all summer long.

Meteorologist John Wheeler