Memorable Early October Snow

On October 7, 1985, the Fargo Moorhead area just missed out on a major early season snowstorm.  Grand Forks got six inches from the storm, Roseau received eight inches, and Langdon got ten inches.  The heaviest snow fell in north-central North Dakota where Minot got a foot of snow and Velva received 17 inches.  The autumn of 1985 was much colder than average and, although most of that early snowfall melted within a few days, several major November snowstorms blanketed our entire region to a depth of one to three feet by Thanksgiving.  Here in Fargo Moorhead, the last five days in November were all below zero day and night.  Such a cold snap before December is unusual.  And though the weather remained cold until just before Christmas, most of January, February, and March brought above-average temperatures.  That was my first winter at WDAY and I remember it well.  The early snow and cold was exciting professionally, but a bit of a shock personally.   Meteorologist John Wheeler

Earliest Snow, Earliest Cold

On September 25, 1912, it snowed in Fargo Moorhead.  The summer of 1912 had been hot and very dry and the heat wave had continued into the early part of September.  Three of the first eight days in September were in the 90s.  But it began to rain September 12.  It rained on 12 of the next 14 days.  During this time, the weather turned remarkably cooler.  Daily high temperatures dropped into the 50s starting September 14.  There was a light frost on September 16.  On September 24 and 25, a steady rain accumulated to more than one inch with the temperature hovering around 40 degrees.  And late on September 25, the cold rain turned to snow, accumulating two inches on the ground during the night.  It remains the earliest measurable snow in Fargo Moorhead recorded history.

On September 26, 1965, it was 19 degrees in Fargo Moorhead.  The month of September, 1965, had been cool from the start.  It had been that cloudy, cool, dank weather that sometimes settles in during the fall for long periods.  Most days were in the 50s.  Frost had not happened due to the perpetually cloudy weather.  But on September 24, the sky cleared but it only warmed to 62 degrees.  That night, it turned unusually cold.  By midnight, the temperature had reached 29 degrees, and by morning it was 22.  The following day, September 25, it remained sunny but the high was just 55 degrees.  The following morning, the temperature bottomed out at 19 degrees.  This remains the earliest temperature in the teens in Fargo Moorhead weather history. The next three days, the clouds returned and highs were only in the 40s, but there was no more frost until early October.  The winter of 1965-66 was bitterly cold but is most famous for the terrible blizzard of March, 1966, considered by most climatologists to have been the strongest blizzard of the 20th Century on the Great Plains.

Meteorologist John Wheeler


Surprise Snow

In the past week, snow was recorded in many places not accustomed to receiving a lot of the white stuff.   Although Jerusalem does record snow on occasion, the amount of snow experienced last week was the heaviest in many years.  The city received anywhere from 30 to 40 centimeters of snow (10 to 15 inches) that virtually shut down the city.

Jerusalem sits at an elevation of 2,600 feet and the roads leading up to the city were so snow covered and icy that travel to and from the city was nearly impossible for a time.  That same storm also dropped snow on Cairo, Egypt.  Many sources reported this to be the first measurable snow in the city in over 100 years.  Social media was full of snow sculptures, some, not surprisingly, in the shape of pyramids.  Another location recently recording snow was in the northern part of Vietnam.

Granted, it was in higher elevations, but snow there is so unusual that traffic jams occurred as people flocked to the area to see snow for the first time in their lives.

First Inch

On Monday, Fargo Moorhead experienced the first accumulating snow of one inch or greater. It was the first time the snow shovels and the snow blowers were use this season and then used a couple of more times since.   The long term average for such an event is on November 13.

Just two years ago, the first one inch event of the season held off until December 30, which was the 3rd latest such occurrence on record.  The only two years on record when Fargo Moorhead did not record the first inch of snow before the new year were back in the winters of 1913-14 when the first inch arrived on January 22 and during the winter of 1943-1944 when the one inch milestone waited until January 27.  On the other extreme, the earliest one inch event locally was on September 25, 1912 when two inches was measured that day.

Last year we recorded our 4th earliest one inch event on October 4.

No Snow

Very little snow has been seen around Fargo Moorhead this season.  Unusual?  Not at all.  In fact our average first 1 inch snow fall is on November 13.  We average 7.9 inches in the month of November, but in more years than not, that average is derived from snow events during the 2nd half of November, not the first.

The snowiest winter on record in Fargo Moorhead was back in the 1996-1997 cold season when 117.0 inches of snow was recorded.  The first measurable snow of that very long winter did not occur until today, November 15 (which also happened to be a Friday) when two inches fell in the first initial wave of a three day snow storm that eventually brought blizzard conditions to the area over that weekend.  By Monday morning, 15.5 inches of snow had fallen.  By the end of the month 26.4 inches of snow had fallen on the city.

The odds of a repeat are of course extremely low, but snow will come eventually, it always does.

Lake Effect Snow in Fargo?

Lake effect snow in Fargo?  When you think about lake effect snow, almost everyone thinks about areas near one of the five great lakes.  But this time of year, when the wind is blowing from the north, lake effect snow does come off of both Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba (and the other numerous bodies of water north of that lake).

Given the right wind trajectory, the clouds and sometimes very light snow or flurries will stream off those lakes all the way to Fargo.  A few years back around one-half inch fell in the metro from a narrow stream of clouds from Lake Manitoba.  The clouds on Monday with the flurries was largely attributed to this phenomenon.  Other lakes in our area also have a brief snow effect season.

Baudette, Minnesota will sometimes record several inches of snow from Lake of the Woods and areas near Devils Lake and the Red Lakes will also on occasion record flurries or light snow under the right conditions.

These lakes will freeze over soon putting an quick end to this, but the lake effect snows off the great lakes usually last the entire winter as most of those lakes never completely freeze over.

Here is a link to a YouTube video of the event.

October Snows

October seems to be one of those months that no one really expects it to snow, yet, when no snow is actually measured, many seem to get surprised by that as well.  One reason perhaps is that October snow has been fairly common in recent years.  Fargo Moorhead averages just 0.7 inches in October. yet five out of the past seven years have recorded  more than one inch of snow.

Historically, measurable snow has occurred in 45% of all Octobers since snow records have been kept, making these recent snowy Octobers seem more typical then it has been historically.  Most years any snow this time of year is in smaller quantities as it only takes 3.8 inches to make it into the top 10 snowiest Octobers on record.  Last year we came close to that finishing as the 11th snowiest when 3.6 inches were measured.

This year we tied with numerous years as the 60th snowiest October on record with just a trace being reported.

Record Lows are Getting Low

Our record low temperatures are now mostly in the single digits above zero and beginning in early November, all our record lows will be below zero until March 31.   A couple of exceptions to that statement will be tomorrow, when the record low is -4 degrees, set in 1919, which is the earliest below zero temperature on record and one final double digit record next Wednesday when the record low is 10 degrees set in 1991.

Many of you may recall that was the day before the famed Halloween blizzard that dropped significant snow in portions of Minnesota that year.  Of course, such events this time of year are rare, but smaller snow events are more common.  The record lows this time of year were almost all set a day or two after a snowfall as snow cover greatly enhances our ability to cool off during our increasingly longer nights.

Snow Year

On the first day of July, probably the last thing on your mind is snow, but today is the beginning of a new snow year.  The snow year in the northern hemisphere for climatic purposes runs from July 1 through June 30.  This just completed snow year of 2012-2013 ranked as the 11th snowiest on record.  In total, the observer in north Moorhead measured 68.4 inches of snow in the past 12 months. 

The last snow recorded locally was back on April 24 when 0.3 inches was measured.  Many of you may recall the record breaking early May snow event that impacted areas to our south and east, but locally our last snow event was fairly close to when it often occurs.  Even with that May event missing this area, our snow season was very long, as our first measureable snow occurred much earlier than average on October 4. 

That was one of the earliest measureable snows on record in Fargo Moorhead. 

Long Snow Season

Our just completed snow season was one of the longest on record.  The first measurable snow fell on October 4 in Fargo Moorhead and the last measurable snow locally occurred on April 24 for a total of 203 days between accumulating snow events.

Regionally, that October 4 event dropped over 12 inches of snow into far northwestern Minnesota and then on May 1-3, parts of southern Minnesota recorded over 12 inches of snow.  That is the longest period between one foot snow events I could find during any snow season within the state of Minnesota.

Another area that has experienced an exceptionally long snow season has been Anchorage, Alaska.  On May 18, the Anchorage airport recorded 0.1 inch of snow, with some parts of the city recording nearly 6 inches from the event that started the day before. Anchorage recorded their first measurable snow back on September 29, meaning there was a period of 233 days between snow events, the longest such period on record for the city.