The National Climatic Data Center released their climate statistics for the month of April this past week. Although Fargo Moorhead recorded the 5th coldest April on record, taken as a whole, April 2013 ranked as the coldest on record for the state of North Dakota. Minnesota was ranked as having the 3rd coldest April on record with South Dakota recording the 2nd coldest. When a region known for having a cold dominated climate breaks or come near to breaking a record for cold temperatures that adds emphasis to how cold this region was last month.
Statewide, North Dakota had an average temperature of 31.0 degrees last month, 0.1 degree colder than 1907 which now ranks as the second coldest April on record. In Minnesota, the average temperature was 33.9 degrees. The coldest April on record in Minnesota occurred in 1950 with an average temperature of 33.5 degrees. That was also a year when many of the area lakes where still ice covered well into May, just like this year.
On Monday afternoon both airports in town record a high temperature above 90 degrees. The Moorhead Municipal Airport had a maximum temperature of 91 degrees and Hector Int’l recorded a high of 93 degrees. The average date of the first 90 degrees reading in a year historically has been on June 9. That average date is derived for the years when a 90 degree day was recorded, as one year, 1915, the high temperature failed to reach 90 degrees at any point during that year.
You will likely recall that the first 50 degree day of 2013 broke the record for the latest such occurrence on record. Then the first 60 degree and 70 degree day arrived well after the average, but the first 80 degree day occurred right near the average and our first 90 degree came early.
This is yet another example on how quickly the patterns can change in the highly dynamic climate we live in here in the center of the North American continent.
The low temperature on Sunday was 24 degrees at Hector Int’l. On Monday, the sensor at the airport recorded a maximum temperature of 93 degrees. That is a difference of 69 degrees in approximately 36 hours. That is tied for the 5th highest difference over a two day period since records started in 1881.
The record occurred in May, 1926. On May 3, 1926 the low was 18 degrees. The following day on May 4, the high temperature was 93 degrees for a difference of 75 degrees over the two days. Other notable two day differences occurred on January 6/7, 1924 from -35 degrees to +36 degrees and from April 14/15, 1926 as the temperature changed from a low of 14 degrees to a high of 85 degrees, both 71 degree differences.
It should be noted that modern electronic thermometers detect sudden rises and falls of temperature more efficiently then the old mercury or alcohol thermometers used in the past; yet, the difference from Sunday morning to Monday afternoon was striking.
We live in a climate where you probably never should say never, but the odds are extremely low that this area will record any more snowfall this season. So unless something unforeseen occurs, our current spring (March through May) will end up ranking as the 2nd snowiest on record. In total, 31.3 inches of snow was measured by our official observer in north Moorhead since March 1.
Only one spring, 1997, was more snow recorded when 33.6 inches was measured. Our spring snow total of 31.3 inches was nearly one-half of the total snow recorded this cold season. This past winter, 68.4 inches of snow fell in Fargo Moorhead which will rank as the 11th snowiest on record.
Other recent springs with abundant snow include, 2009 with 28.3 inches (4th highest) and 2008 when 28.1 inches fell (5th highest). Therefore, three out of the five snowiest springs on record have all occurred in the past five years.
Last month finished as the 5th coldest April on record. Not only did we finish in the Top 5 for cold temperatures, but also for snowfall. The official observer in north Moorhead measured 16.7 inches of snow last month which ranked as the 4th snowiest April on record. A couple of days ago in a previous blog I mentioned that although April ranked as the 5th coldest on record, we came within 1 degree of breaking the monthly record.
It was also a similar scenario for snowfall last month.The 16.7 inches that was measured barely missed the April snow record of 17.4 inches set in 1904. The other two years with a higher snow totals in the month of April were in 2008 with 16.9 inches and 16.8 inches recorded in 1937. In total, 2.11 inches of liquid equivalency of recorded last month.
It was a rare April in the sense that almost all of that moisture came from snowfall as only 0.05 inches of rain was recorded with 2.06 inches coming from melted snow.
With only five days left in the month, April 2013 was on track to be the coldest April on record. The last five days were warm enough to surpass four other Aprils and therefore last month finished as the 5th coldest April since records began in 1881. The average temperature last month was 33.8 degrees. T
hat was not much warmer than the coldest April on record which occurred in 1893 that recorded an average temperature of 33.0 degrees. The other colder Aprils included 1907 with an average of 33.1 degrees, 1881 with an average of 33.3 degrees and 1950 with an average temperature of 33.5 degrees. So although last month finished as the 5th coldest on record, it was certainly very close to being the coldest on record.
Many of you may recall that the lakes in Minnesota with ice out data to at least 1950 have that year as the latest ice out year on record and the temperatures so far this spring are nearly identical to what occurred in that year.
The cold weather that dominated most of this month has set a few milestones. The first 25 days were the coldest such period on record and all of those days had at least 1 inch of snow on the ground. That was the first time since snow records began that the winter snowpack lasted so long into April. The first 25 days of April were also all below average, plus, including March, Fargo Moorhead recorded 46 straight days with a daily average temperature at or below normal.
45 of those days the temperature was below normal and just one day was right on the average.It will likely surprise no one to learn that most of those days the temperature was well below normal.
The month of April recorded 16.7 inches of snow which will rank as the 4th snowiest on record (as no more is expected this month), but only missed a tie for 2nd place by 0.2 inches. The snowiest April on record was back in 1904 when 17.4 inches was measured.
Today marks the 150th day with at least 1 inch of snow on the ground this cold season. This is only the 5th time on record that Fargo Moorhead has recorded at least 150 days of snow cover. As a reference, the winter of 1996-1997 recorded 147 days with snow covering the ground. Including this cold season, that ranks as the 5th highest such total on record.
The years with the highest total number of days with snow cover occurred during the winters of 1935-1936 and 1978-1979. Both of those cold seasons recorded 155 total days with at least 1 inch of snow depth. Last year, the winter of 2012-2013 recorded only 65 such days. Because of the warmer temperatures expected beginning tomorrow it is likely we will not be breaking the record for the most snow covered days in a season, but we did break the record for the most such days in the month of April by at least 7 days and counting
The record for the latest 50 degree high temperature we broke this week was previously set in 1881. Although snowfall and snow depth records were not kept that year locally, based on the melted precipitation and the temperatures, it is likely the winter snow cover persisted into April that year.
If you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Book “The Long Winter”, you are perhaps unknowingly familiar with the spring of 1881 as the winter she described took place in 1880-1881. In the book she describes a warm up finally coming in April. Fargo Moorhead also recorded a shift in the temperatures that month from the 30s to the 70s in a span of 10 days that quickly melted the snow. That warm up melted the huge snow drifts blocking the trains from getting into South Dakota that allowed the Ingalls’ family to finally have their Christmas turkey in May.
Our past winter was far less severe, but this snow season did start in October and is still on going in April, just like the winter described in her book.
The official recording of temperature and precipitation data started in Moorhead on January 1, 1881. It was not until April 17, that year, did the observer record a temperature at or above 50 degrees, but on this date in 1881, the high was written down as 57 degrees. Every year since that first year of record keeping the first 50 degree day occurred earlier than that date. In fact, the overall average of such an occurrence through the years is nearly a month earlier on March 18.
That record stood for 131 years, but the warmest high so far in 2013 has only been 43 degrees and with no chance of hitting 50 degrees today or any time soon, this spring will now set the future late standard for reaching that milestone. Now that we have broken the latest 50 degree high on record, the next milestone is 60 degrees.
The average first 60 degree day is April 3 and the latest on record was May 6, 1893.
Edit: It is official, no 50 degree reading yesterday, so a new record is set and continuing. Grand Forks needs to make it to midnight on April 21 to break the record there.