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Warmer winter in store for Fargo region

FARGO -- A warmer-than-usual winter will follow Fargo's near-record warm fall, meteorologists say. Credit goes to El Ni?o, the tropical weather phenomenon that has heated the Upper Midwest by pushing cold air farther north, said Brad Hopkins, met...

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Tammy Cromwell of the Business Improvement District scrapes ice and slush from the sidewalk Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015, at the corner of First Avenue North and Broadway. Warmer than average temperatures have made for a mild fall and will also melt most of the local snow by weekend. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

FARGO -- A warmer-than-usual winter will follow Fargo's near-record warm fall, meteorologists say.

Credit goes to El Niño, the tropical weather phenomenon that has heated the Upper Midwest by pushing cold air farther north, said Brad Hopkins, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

This weekend's forecast of 40-degree temperatures in Fargo-Moorhead follows a fall whose average temperature of 50.9 degrees was second to the record of 51.4 degrees set in 1963, Hopkins said.

This fall's average high was 61.9 degrees, also second to the record of 63.9 degrees set in 1963. The average low this fall was 39.9 degrees, which broke the record of 39.2 degrees set in 1994.

The winter is expected to be warmer than usual, but WDAY Meteorologist John Wheeler cautioned that it may not be as unusually warm as it was this fall.

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"It may not be a crazy warm winter," he said. He said he also had "flimsy" evidence that the temperature may turn quite cold by Christmas time.

Though El Niño deserves most of the credit for the warmer weather, it is not the only factor, Wheeler said.

"The last month or so, I think the primary factor has been El Niño," he said, "but it was also an extremely warm September and October and I don't think we can attribute that to El Niño."

He said other factors were warm water off the Pacific Northwest coast, and the North Atlantic Oscillation -- a weather phenomenon that can result in milder temperatures for the central U.S.

The planet is getting hotter, and Wheeler said Fargo was not immune to that trend.

"In a small way, it's certainly related to the fact that overall the globe is going through a warm period now and has been warming now a few decades, and that obviously adds to this a little bit," he said. "But I don't think the extreme warmth of this fall is directly related to climate change."

Hopkins declined to comment on a possible connection between this fall's warmth and global climate change.

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