John Wheeler / Forum News Service
How much snow is possible from a single snowstorm? National single-storm snow records mostly come from mountainous regions or downwind from the Great Lakes where local geography can contribute to ridiculous snowfalls of six feet or more. The record single-storm snowfall in Fargo Moorhead was in January 1989 when we were buried under 24.5 inches.
Our climate is warming, but a warm weekend in February or a couple of mild winters in a row should not be used as evidence.
With temperatures forecast into the 50s this weekend, here is a look back to the warmest February weather on record in Fargo Moorhead. February of 1958 was not unusually warm, overall. In fact, the first 19 days of February that year were colder than average. However, there was very little snow on the ground; only a couple of inches most of the month. So when warm weather moved in, the snow quickly melted and the weather warmed to record levels.
Several times already this year, severe thunderstorms and tornadoes have cut scattered paths across the southern parts of the United States.
This winter has been unusual in many ways. The snowstorms have all (except one in early January) missed the Fargo area. There has been very little cold weather. One element strangely missing this winter is the north wind. The Red River Valley has experienced only a few days with a strong northerly wind. Most of the windy days in the region this winter have happened with a more westerly, usually a west/northwest wind.
FARGO, N.D. — More record highs are likely the next few days to add to last Friday’s record high of 46 degrees. Nationwide this year so far, high temperature records have been broken at a 3-1 ratio over low temperature records. In 2016, the ratio was 5-1 nationwide. The present warm weather trend is due to several short-term factors, including last winter’s El Niño, but the warming climate is evident in the data.
The heaviest snowfall on record in the Gulf Coast region of the United States happened on this day in 1895. A low-pressure system formed over southern Texas and moved eastward along the Gulf Coast at a time when extremely cold air (for the region) was in place.
East Coast snowstorms come with a lot of hoopla on the national news because of the millions of people affected. But how does a typical Nor’easter compare to one of our Northern Plains blizzards? To be sure, both are bad storms but in very different ways. Nor’easters have lots of warm, moist Atlantic air available and can generate extremely heavy snowfall rates, sometimes at 2-3 inches of heavy, wet snow per hour. Nor’easter storm totals of 2-3 feet are not unusual.
NASA announced Thursday that the La Niña of 2016-17 is officially dead. Sea surface temperatures across the tropical regions of the Pacific are essentially normal. The La Niña conditions were never very strong, anyway, and other influences likely have been driving our weather patterns this winter more than the La Niña. The region of anomalously warm sea surface temperatures in the Arctic has likely been the biggest driver of our weather this winter.
Severe river floods in 2011, 2010, 2009, 2005, 2001, and 1997 all changed Fargo Moorhead in one way or another. Home buyouts, dike construction, the Sheyenne Diversion, and the grander Fargo Diversion have been built (or are planned) to keep the water within the river channel or on farmland outside the city. But all of this displacement of water has the effect of making the floods crest higher.