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Published November 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Experts say mild weather to linger

The region has basked in a welcome run of mild weather lately. Dare we ask: Will it last?

By: Patrick Springer, INFORUM

The region has basked in a welcome run of mild weather lately. Dare we ask: Will it last?

The opinion of experts: It appears likely.

The recent mild temperatures should persist at least through March, according to current predictions, thanks to the El Nino weather pattern.

More good news. On the Northern Plains, an El Nino winter usually means normal or below snowfall.

In other words, last year’s horrendous winter and record spring flood don’t appear due for an encore performance, according to Adnan Akyuz, the North Dakota state climatologist, and Mark Ewens, data manager for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.

The government’s Climate Prediction Center continues to predict above-normal temperatures for the region this winter.

This fall and winter appear to be very similar to the winter of 2006-07, said Akyuz, whose temperature and precipitation charts show a striking similarity. That winter was mild, with below average snowfall.

“My precipitation prediction is near normal to below normal, and temperature-wise it is above normal,” he said.

“However, the officials should not relax their guard,” Akyuz added, saying a rapid spring thaw or early spring rains still could result in serious spring flooding.

Still, Akyuz’s own analysis shows that, despite a very wet October, precipitation heading into winter is well below last year.

Last year’s August-to-March was the wettest on record, and 4.58 inches more precipitation fell than the same period this year.

The cool-weather trend has been interrupted by a jet stream carrying warm air from the south to the area, a pattern that should continue, Akyuz said.

Then, in December, the El Nino pattern should take over, bringing its above-normal temperatures, predicted to remain at least through March.

“Right now we seem to be in pretty good shape,” Ewens said. The National Weather Service expects to issue a new assessment before Thanksgiving.

For those nervously watching the Red River after a soggy October and a record fall crest, you can probably relax, at least until spring.

After cresting last week at 23.59 feet, a new fall record, the Red River had dropped below the 18-foot flood stage to 16.33 feet as of Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, heavy spring rains or a rapid snowmelt could quickly produce flooding in the Red River Valley, Ewens and Akyuz said. But no weather outlook is yet available for spring.

“Anything at this point is simply literally a guess,” Ewens said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522