The Upper Midwest and Northern Plains heat wave of April 21, 1980, is perhaps the first weather event to have made a scientific impression on this young freshman meteorology student. As a freshman at Iowa State University, the warm, dry spring was notable. A snowfall of several inches a week before had quickly melted, and its remains barely settled the dust. A large, high-pressure area built across the region that day, setting up widespread downward motion, which caused the air near the ground to heat by compression.
The result was numerous record highs. Fargo, Grand Forks and Waterloo, Iowa, tied for the national high at 100 degrees. Ames, Iowa, where this meteorologist was living in an unairconditioned dormitory, reached 98 degrees. Sioux Falls hit 97. Further north, Rochester, Minn., topped off at 91. Even chilly Duluth managed 80 degrees. Out west, Bismarck hit 93 and Dickinson hit 94.