Snow cover, where art thou?Mother Nature has awarded the area a 40 percent off sale on winter weather this year. The unusually dry fall and mild early winter have, in essence, shaved off two of the five months of wintery weather that often prevails, WDAY meteorologist Daryl Ritchison said Friday.
By: By Patrick Springer , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Mother Nature has awarded the area a 40 percent off sale on winter weather this year.
The unusually dry fall and mild early winter have, in essence, shaved off two of the five months of wintery weather that often prevails, WDAY meteorologist Daryl Ritchison said Friday.
A temperature bonus comes with the brown ground. Without snow cover, the temperature is roughly 10 degrees warmer than it otherwise would be, Ritchison added.
So what does the future hold? Weather experts said weather patterns producing the dry weather and blocking frigid arctic air from reaching the area likely will weaken starting in January. A return to more usual patterns is bound to emerge.
“January and February could end up perhaps being colder than last year, but as a whole this winter could be warmer because this month has been so warm,” Ritchison said.
Given the long stretch of dry weather — with total snow accumulations yielding little more than an inch as of Friday — it will be difficult to end up with a really snowy winter. On the other hand, the area could easily end up with a winter of “normal” snow amounts, using a broad definition.
The average snowfall over the last 30 years is 52.1 inches, but the statistically normal range is from 32.7 inches to 71.5 inches.
The last several winters, and especially recent Decembers, have been more snowy than usual, skewing our recollected notion of normal, Ritchison and Mark Ewens, a National Weather Service meteorologist said.
“People have very bad weather memories,” Ewens said.
Consider that as recently as the winter of 2004-05 Fargo received 28.8 inches, with 33.4 inches in 2002-03 and 34 inches in 1999-2000.
By comparison, last winter kept snowblowers humming with 88.5 inches, and 2008-09 dropped 79.7 inches. The record is the 117 inches that fell in 1996-97.
Fargo has seen as little as 9.3 inches of snow, the total for 1957-58, and 10 winters have finished with less than 20 inches of snow.
Every day that passes without an inch or more of snow increases the odds of a light or modest winter snow total, said Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota’s state climatologist.
“We are looking increasingly near normal,” he said.
For instance, if the first snowfall of an inch or more came Sunday, the historical record suggests the highest snow total Fargo could expect is 42.7 inches, which fell in 1928-29, he said.
Getting that much snow, Akyuz added, probably would require some record snows.
Sunday’s forecast, by the way, calls for high temperatures in the 40s, so Friday’s dusting should melt.
Fargo has seen four brown Christmases over the past 20 years, most recently in 2006.
But those who, like Bing Crosby, dream of a white Christmas can take heart from the odds. In any given year, Ritchison said, Fargo has an 84 percent chance of experiencing a white Christmas.
The best chance for snow in the week ahead looks to be late Wednesday or Thursday, when a front is expected to move through the area that could come with a band of snow, Ritchison said.
Patrick Springer is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.