The highest temperature in 2013 so far was a 43 degree high on both January 10 and April 3. You would need to go back to 1979 or 1881 to find a year with a maximum temperature lower than that so late into the year.
In 1881 it did not reach the mid 40s until the April 15, although, just a week later the first 70 degree day arrived right near the current average. In 1979, that first 70 degree day did not arrive until May 16 and April recorded mainly highs in the 40s. Persistent high temperatures in the 40s even lingered in May that year with nearly one inch of snow falling on May 5. Plus, although, no significant individual rain events were recorded, from the middle of April to the middle of May a total of 15 days recorded some rainfall (or snow).
So not only was it a cold spring in 1979, it was also, cloudy and wet much of the time. The odds favor our pattern changing before the middle of May this year, but if it happened once, it could obviously happen again.
The average temperature last month was 17.3 degrees. That was 10.5 degrees below average and 24.3 degrees colder than the record setting March of 2012. This past month tied March 1923, and March 1996, for the 14th coldest March since records began in 1881. It should be noted that there are 40 Marches on record with an average temperature between 15 and 20 degrees, so although last month the ranking was fairly low, a couple of nights that may have been cloudy instead of clear would have altered the ranking significantly. I point this out because although the average temperature in March is 27.8 degrees, only 43 of the 133 Marches on record have recorded an above average temperature.
When a March happens to lack snow cover, they tend to be exceptionally warm and skew the average upwards, yet as noted, approximately one out of three Marches have recorded temperatures very similar to what occurred this year. The coldest March on record was in 1899 with an average temperature of just 11.1 degrees
With the lack of melting in March, Fargo Moorhead residents will be starting the month of April with nearly all the winter snow cover still on the ground. I have written through the years that it is unusual to enter April with much snow on the ground, unless there was a late March snow event. Two years ago, April 2011 did have 6 inches of the winter snow cover still on the ground, but that was gone by April 4.
In the record breaking winter of 1996-97 when an average of 32 inches of snow was on the ground in early March of that season, the snow depth on April 1 was down to 6 inches and it was also gone on April 4, although, a horrible blizzard dropped 7 inches of snow two days later. But this year the snow pack is likely going to last well beyond the first few days of the month.
Probably the only years on record similar to this year in carrying so much of the winter snow pack into April were 1969 and 1989 and neither of those had as much on the ground as we do this year.
With the addition of several below zero readings this month, the total number of days Fargo Moorhead has recorded a negative low temperature this cold season is now at 43 days. The long term average since 1881 is 49 such days and the average over the past 30 years has been 41 negative days.
During the winter of 2011-12 Hector Int’l only dropped below zero on 16 days, which was the 3rd lowest total on record. Only the winters of 1986-87 and 1930-31 recorded fewer below zero mornings than was recorded last winter. Although many recent cold seasons have recorded fewer than normal negative days, there have been a few exceptions.
The winter of 2010-11 had 52 days below zero and the winter of 2008-009 ended up with 61 such days. The most in recent years was the brutal winter of 1996-1997 when the airport dropped below zero on 67 times.
The winter of 2011-12 was one many of us may never forget. The average temperature last winter was 22.1 degrees, the warmest on record. Our just completed winter was nearly 10 degrees cooler with an average temperature of 12.7 degrees.
Although much colder than that remarkable winter we experienced last year, the past three months finished right near the 30 year average winter temperature of 12.6 degrees. That was warm enough to rank the winter of 2012-13 as the 37th warmest winter since 1881.
Total snowfall for the three principal months of winter was 28.7 inches in comparison to the average of 29.4 inches. Although the amount of snow fall these past three months was close to the average, the moisture content was above average. In total, 2.56 inches of rain and melted snow was recorded from December 1 through February 28 which is 0.42 inches above the 30 year winter average.
March is the month when winter slowly begins to end in the Red River Valley. The average high climbs from 29 degrees on the 1st to 46 degrees on the 31st. It is likely that by the end of this month the snow cover from winter will be gone.
Granted, there may still be snow sitting on the ground on April 1, but usually if there is, it was from a late March snow event rather than the old snow from winter. The average low will climb from 12 degrees to 26 degrees over the course of the month. The overall average temperature climbs from 14.6 degrees in February to 27.8 degrees in March, and then makes the leap to 44.2 degrees in April.
The current average precipitation for the month of March is 1.30 inches of rain and melted snow. This month averages 9.1 inches of snow but recent years have recorded quite the range from no measurable snow in 2010 to 28.1 inches in 2009. In 2012 2.6 inches was measured.
Last Tuesday, February 19, the official high in Fargo Moorhead was -1 degree. The average last sub-zero high temperature occurs on February 9. You never say never in this climate, yet, considering we have recorded only three sub-zero high temperatures during the month of March in the past 40 years, it is quite likely that the next day with a temperature remaining below zero will not occur until next winter.
Although it is unlikely for the immediate area to record another sub-zero high this cold season, that is not the case for our morning low. The long-term average date for our last below zero low temperature of the winter occurs on March 11. In fact, the last below zero low has occurred in March for the past six winters in a row.
hat means that even during last years record breaking March, the temperature dropped to -5 on March 5, then the warmth hit with a vengeance with the high hitting 76 degrees just 12 days later.
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.
The snowfall on Monday in Fargo Moorhead pushed the snow depth up to 7 inches, the highest of the season so far. Last winter, like this year, the snow depth was generally minimal, although, it did peak at 9 inches in early March.
Since snow depth records have been kept during the winter of 1892-1893 the average maximum snow depth locally has been 13 inches. The record snow depth was recorded during the infamous winter of 1996-1997 when 32 inches was recorded in March. In more recent winters, the snow seasons of 2008-9, 2009-10, 2010-11 all recorded a maximum depth around 20 inches which has likely attributed to the sense of so little snow in these past two years.
Lack of snow cover was particularly noticeable in the late 1950s. The six winters from 1954-55 to 1959-1960 all never had a snow depth above 8 inches and those were also years with very little total snowfall as well.
December 2012 continued the recent trend for near average temperatures. Last month finished with an average temperature of 14.7 degrees which is 0.6 degrees above the current 30 year average. The first half of the month recorded very mild temperatures but the second half of the month turned cold enough that in the end the month finished close to normal. Although the temperatures in recent months have been fairly close to average,
December was another month with total precipitation finishing below normal. Our cooperative observer in north Moorhead measured 0.45 inches of liquid from the 5.1 inches of snow he measured (The airport reported 0.37 inches of liquid equivalency).
Average precipitation in December is 0.83 inches and the average snowfall is 11.2 inches. Only three of the twelve months in 2012 finished with above average precipitation and all of those three months would be better described as finishing near the average