It was 75 years ago this week that the most intense and brutal heat wave on record occurred in Fargo Moorhead. For 15 straight days, from July 4-18, 1936, the high temperature exceeded 90 degrees. On nine of those days the temperature was over 100 degrees, with eight of those occurring in a row.
Included in that streak was the highest temperature recorded in Fargo Moorhead, a 114 degree reading on July 6. The high temperature missed being 100 degrees or above on 11 consecutive days only because after eight straight 100 degree days, the high hit 99 twice, before exceeding 100 once again. No other heat wave comes close to matching what occurred in this area in July 1936. The second longest streak with temperatures above 90 degrees is 9, set back in August, 1976.
The year 1936 recorded both the most intense heat wave and cold snap on record, with both events being significantly more brutal than anything else on record.
I have often wondered on the media would treat such a year in today’s society…. I probably do not want to know.
Back in 1985, Utah was believed to have broken the record for the highest annual temperature range for any state. That year Peter?s Sink, UT was thought to have recorded a low of -69?F on February 1, followed by St. George, UT recording a high of 117?F on July 5. That is a range of 186? in a single year.
Previous to that, the record was held by North Dakota with an annual temperature range of 181? set in 1936. That year, Parshall, ND recorded a low of -60?F on February 15, followed by Steele, ND reaching a high of 121?F on July 6. Both still stand as the all-time warmest and coldest temperatures recorded in the state.
Recently, the National Climate Extremes Committee questioned the validity of the -69?F reading from Peter?s Sink, UT and found no evidence to support such a temperature. By the way, Dr. Akyuz, the North Dakota State Climatologist is on this committee.
Therefore, North Dakota once again holds the position of having the highest annual temperature extremes of any state since records have been kept.
March begins our 1,551 month of record keeping in Fargo Moorhead. During those many months, observers have recorded weather events found elsewhere around the world, yet few other geographical locations on the planet get the mix of weather we do during the course of a year.
These past 129 plus years, local citizens have experienced raging blizzards that give you a sense of living on the tundra, blistering heat reminiscent of a desert, tropical downpours that make you think you are in a rain forest with dew points to match, one of the most powerful tornadoes witnessed and of course, many days when we sense a bit of heaven here on earth. Besides hurricanes, our area experiences a world of weather.
As we move toward spring we will also lay witness to a coming rebirth of what lies dormant under a blanket of white and it is a marvel I look forward to each year.
This month has brought some dramatic temperature changes to the area. One of most interesting to me has been the extreme range in low temperatures observed. Back on January 2 the official low in Fargo Moorhead was -33° which was a record for that date. Then three weeks later, on January 23, the official low was 33° above zero. That was also a record, but this time a record high minimum for that date.
So during this month our low temperatures have varied by 66° which is the 2nd highest such difference in our record books for this month. The greatest difference in minimum temperatures in January occurred in 1892 when the range was 67°. That year the lowest minimum temperature was -37° and the highest minimum was 30°.
The all-time record dates back to March of 1964 which experienced a minimum low temperature of -22° with a high minimum of 50° for a monthly difference of 72°.
The first half of November was the 5th warmest such stretch on record. It was a quick turnaround from the seasonally cold weather in October. In fact, the first half of October was the coldest on record which followed the 2nd warmest September since 1881. Our area has certainly been on the proverbial rollercoaster for the past several weeks.
This shifting of temperature extremes has not only been felt locally, but throughout much of the northern hemisphere. The upper-level wind flow has been in a strong meridional flow pattern for the past several weeks. This is a flow pattern where only small segments of the jetstream are flowing from west to east, but instead the flow has several north/south components. This allows unseasonally cool or warm temperatures to slowly transition around the northern hemisphere.
It appears we will be switching to colder again as we approach Thanksgiving with the possibility of a storm system moving along the transition zone.
Current Northern Hemispheric 500 mb chart: