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.

Another Snowy Spring

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.

Top 5 For Snow

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.