Snow Matters

The winter of 2011-2012 was the warmest on record in Fargo Moorhead.  It was nearly 10 degrees above the current 30 year average.

There is no doubt that the overall pattern last winter was a mild one. The upper level wind pattern was consistently from the west allowing mild Pacific air to dominate the season with only a couple of intrusions of Arctic air disrupting that pattern.  But another very important element to the warmth was our lack of snow cover. This past week has been a prime example.

Fargo Moorhead missed the big storm earlier this month that left a significant snow cover over central and northern North Dakota.  The eight days following the storm the average high in Fargo was 40 degrees, but in usually warmer Bismarck with a snow cover the average high was just 32 degrees.  Even Grand Forks with minimum snow from the storm (like Fargo), the nearby snow pack lowered their average to just 33 degrees.

Because the sun angle is so low this time of year making it difficult to melt much snow, an early season snow storm can in turn, influence the average temperature for the entire cold season.

Current snow cover over the area.

Spring Outlook

Once again I was asked by the State Climatologist in North Dakota to write a summary to what I expect for the upcoming season.  What I wrote can be found below.  It can also be found in the State Climate Bulletin to be published soon.


Spring and autumns are always the most difficult to forecast because of large swings that can and do occur on both daily and weekly time scales.  Plus, with so much cold elsewhere on the planet, this spring in particular has the potential for giant swings from warm to cold.  These temperature swings can also lead to prolong periods of dry weather intermixed with brief periods of significant precipitation.

Using that as a backdrop, after a mild March that may end up as one of the warmest on record for the region, April looks to be transitioning to colder weather, followed by a near average May.  That would mean, overall, an above average temperature for the season, but we always need to remember, that does not mean consistently above average and a poorly timed cold front can easily hamper the planting season.

Although historically when a La Nina is present is the Pacific, this area has a higher than normal likelihood of recording above average precipitation in the spring, the current La Nina is fading quickly and therefore, the odds favor this season to finish nearer to the long-term average for rain and late season snowfall.  If that forecast holds, it would be a welcome change from the excessive spring moisture many areas have recorded in recent years.

The latest spring outlook from the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) for the next three months can be seen below.The CPC is forecasting a slightly higher than normal probability of above average temperatures and equal changes of above, below or normal precipitation. You can find the current and future outlooks, when new ones become available, at


Also, the North Dakota State Climate Office has links to the National Weather Service’s local 3-month temperature outlooks for the upcoming year. Those forecasts can be found at:

Bismarck Rain

A slow moving complex of Thunderstorms triggered areas of heavy rainfall in central North Dakota yesterday.  Some of the totals near Bismarck are listed below.  The data is from the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Rainfall Totals for June 15



BISMARCK 5 E…………….7.20 INCHES…..1115 PM CDT
BISMARCK 4 E…………….6.25 INCHES…..1023 PM CDT
BISMARCK 3 E…………….5.55 INCHES…..1215 AM CDT
LINCOLN 2 E……………….5.38 INCHES……430 AM CDT
BISMARCK NE…………….5.20 INCHES…..1027 PM CDT
MANDAN…………………….4.00 INCHES…..1112 PM CDT