In a climate where the averages tend to be near the middle of large extremes, overall, January 2013, actually finished reasonably close to the long term averages for both temperature and precipitation. The average temperature last month was 10.8 degrees which is 1.5 degrees above average.
Precipitation last month was also slightly above the average. The rain and melted snow in January totaled 0.97 inches with the average being 0.70 inches. Snowfall last month was 9.1 inches which is slightly below the current average of 11.2 inches. Most of that precipitation came on January 28. Fargo Moorhead happened to be near the edge of the band of snow that developed that day. Had that storm tracked about 30 miles farther southeast, we would have had well below average snow and precipitation for the month.
Therefore, although January precipitation finished near normal locally, many locations nearby finished either well below or well above average. That means Fargo Moorhead happened to be in the middle of those large extremes this area often records.
A year ago today, it was a Thursday for the record book. After recording a high of 41 degrees the previous day, which tied the record for January 4 last set back in 2001. The next day even warmer air moved into the area. With the lack of snow cover, abundant sunshine and a favorable west wind, the temperature soared into the 50s.
The official high that day at Hector Int’l was 55 degrees. Not only did that shatter the record for the day, which was previously just 40 degrees, it also surpassed the record for the warmest temperature in the month of January since records started in 1881. On January 20, 1908 the temperature reached 54 degrees locally and that high stood untouched for over 100 years before it was broken a year ago today. Another record was broken the following day when the high reached 44 degrees. Then two more records were broken on January 9 and 10 making for five record highs or ties in a week.
January 2012 finished tied as the 4th warmest on record.
The official snow total for January 2012 was 8.0 inches, well within the range of what would be considered average for the month. Our current 30 year average snowfall for January is 11.1 inches because of some recent heavier snowfalls during the month, but the historic average is 8.5 inches, so last month’s snow total although considered light by many, was very typical for the month.
The melted snow and rain added up to 0.58 inches of liquid which also falls near average for January. The average liquid precipitation in January is currently 0.70 inches. Although many recent winters have been quite snowy, the month of January has not typically been the problem month in recent years.
The last time the month of January recorded over 20 inches of snow was back in 1997. Including this year, since 2000, Fargo Moorhead residents have had to shovel less than 10 inches of snow in 10 of those 13 years.
January 2012 continued our stretch of months with above average temperatures. Last month was our 8th straight month with temperatures above the 30 year average with most of that stretch finishing well above average. The average temperature in January was 19.6 degrees which tied 1931 for the 4th warmest January on record. That is 10.3 degrees above average for the first month of the year.
Last month was the first January that finished with an above average temperature since 2007. In fact, 7 out of the past 9 Januaries finished below normal perhaps adding to the overall pleasant feel of the month. When compared to January 2011 the difference is striking. Last year the month recorded an average temperature of just 3.2 degrees, which means, on average, each day of January this year was over 16 degrees warmer than what we recorded last year.
The warmest temperature in January was a 55 degree high on January 5 which was also the warmest temperature on record for the month.
The first 10 days of January was a remarkable stretch of mild temperatures. The average temperature during that period was 29.7 degrees, which was 5 degrees warmer than any other such stretch on record and a phenomenal 20.3 degrees above average. Locally during that period we recorded 4 record highs, one tie and on two other days that we missed the record by 2 degrees or less.
Three of those record highs were in the 50s, including a 55 degree high on January 5 which was the warmest temperature recorded in January since 1881. The last time Fargo Moorhead recorded three 50 degree or warmer high temperatures this month was back in 1942. The most 50 degree high temperatures in January was back in 1900 when 4 such days occurred.
Back in December 2006 we had a brown Christmas, that was followed by a very warm first half of January, just like this year, but the 2nd half of the winter turned very cold. A reminder on how quickly patterns can switch in this area
Temperatures in the 50s this time of year have been rare in recent decades. Since 1881 on only 13 occasions has the temperature reached 50 degrees or higher in Fargo Moorhead in January. Plus, most of those occurrences were between the years of 1900 to 1944. January 1944 recorded two 50 degree high temperature days and since then Fargo Moorhead reached that milestone only two additional times.
One on January 24, 1981 and the other occurred ten years ago on January 25, 2002. January 1900 recorded a record four days with a high in the 50s, with January 1942 recording three. Those two months account for one-half of all such days. Although, January 1908 recorded only one 50 degree day on January 20, it was the warmest January day on record with a high of 54 degrees.
That record stood unmatched until last Thursday when Fargo Moorhead officially reached 55 degrees, for not only the 14th recorded 50 degree in January, but also the warmest on record for the month.
January is climatologically the coldest month of the year in Fargo Moorhead. The average temperature in January is 6.8 degrees and last month?s average was 3.2 degrees which is 3.6 degrees below normal. That average temperature of 3.2 degrees placed January 2011 as the 52nd coldest out of 131 Januarys in the record book. Including this year, three out of the past four Januarys have finished with below average temperatures.
The month of January averages 0.76 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation (melted snow, ice and rain). Last month 0.90 inches of precipitation was measured, certainly within the bounds of average, yet still another month with precipitation running on the high side of normal. Although no major snow events were experienced in January, with the heaviest snow event only dropping 2.2 inches, the month had all of us busy shoveling with measurable snow reported on 17 of the 31 days. In total 14 inches of snow fell in comparison to the average of 9.6 inches.
During the last few months of 2009 our area was in a persistent four week weather pattern that brought significant monthly temperature anomalies. September was very warm, followed by a cold October, and then back to warmth in November with the pattern bringing back the cold in December. So as January began many were wondering if this pattern would continue.
The first ten days of the month were bitterly cold bringing thoughts of another cold month to many. But then a rapid warm up occurred and the middle two weeks of January had temperatures nearly 20° above average. But then the cold came back for the last week of the month with temperatures again well below normal. In some ways, January brought all the extremes of the past four months into four weeks.
In the end, the extremes last month nearly balanced out, with the average temperature in January finishing 1.6° above normal.
January started off very cold for most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains. Locally, the first 9 days of the month were the 10th coldest such period since 1881 in Fargo Moorhead. The average temperature during that stretch was -8.2° with the coldest temperature recorded being -33° on January 2. We also experienced three other days with lows in the -20s and an additional three days in the -10s.
Other parts of the country have faired even worse. Sioux Falls, SD and Sioux City, IA both had a Top 5 coldest first week of January on record. Numerous other cities from North Dakota to Texas and from the Great Lakes to Florida in some way recorded a Top 5 coldest stretch of weather, be it the average temperature, or a streak below freezing or some other point. You would have to go back to the 1970s to find a year that started off this cold.