John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms. John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold. When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading. John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.
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I spent the middle hours of March 7, 1970, standing around in an open field near Perry, Fla., with my family. We had traveled there from Alabama to witness a solar eclipse. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy. It even rained lightly, off and on. Telescopes, complete with solar filters, were worthless for viewing the diminishing face of the sun. Expensive cameras hung idly around the necks of the people in the international crowd. However, when the moment of totality arrived, we were treated to a spectacular show anyway.
Can you imagine frost this time of year? Actually, such a thing would not be all that unusual. On Aug. 20, 2004, it was 34 degrees in Fargo and 32 degrees in Grand Forks. Scattered frost occurred up and down the Red River Valley. The Fargo area also had scattered frost on Aug. 27, 1982, when the official temperature reached 33 degrees. Other modern-day early frosts happened on Aug. 13, 1964, when it reached 33 degrees; and also Aug. 14, 1965, when it reached 35 degrees. There was another chilly morning in 1965 when it hit 36 degrees on Aug. 28.
July and August are our least windy months of the year, but as summer begins to drift into fall, the weather will turn windier as it turns cooler. Wind is officially measured at 10 meters, or about 33 feet, above the ground. Although this is far higher than most of us experience the wind, 10 meters is used because the readings are less affected by local turbulence, and so of greater use to forecasters and airplane pilots. There are three parts to a wind recording. First, there is the direction. This is the direction the wind is coming from.
Midnight and still 80 degrees. You knew it would still be in the 70s in the morning. Remember those sticky summer nights spent on sweat-soaked sheets? You were too hot to sleep so you'd lie awake listening to the constant drone of the box fan in the window. It can be hard to sleep without air conditioning in such weather, but in some summers, including this one, most of us can manage fine with just open windows. This June brought very few days (or nights) with high humidity and there have been none so far in August.
The first half of August has been cool. Every day but one has been cooler than average with the exception of Aug. 8 which, with a high of 85 and a low of 45, was exactly average. Through yesterday Tuesday, Aug. 15, the average daily temperature so far in August is 66.9 degrees which is about 4 degrees cooler than average. If the weather remains cool enough for August to finish with a cooler-than-average mean temperature, it will be the first cooler-than-average month since May, which was a slim 0.1 degree cooler than average.
August, the final month of summer, is half over. Nights are longer and starting earlier. Days are perceptibly shorter than they were a month ago. It can be said that summer is on the wane, but it is premature to pronounce it dead. There have been 10 days all summer that have reached 90 degrees and there is still time for a few more. Historically, a few days of 90 degree weather have often occurred in late August and even as late as mid-October. But we should also expect those cooler days to begin happening more frequently.
You may have noticed a few maple treetops have begun to show a little fall color already. Although this may seem early, we usually see a little golden here and there by early August. In Alaska, the first winter storm of the season has blasted the Brooks Range and North Slope with snow and blowing snow. Several inches fell in some of the mountain passes of the Brooks Range. Although this storm is coming a week or two earlier than typical, it is not unusual for the Brooks Range of Alaska to get their first snowstorm of the winter in August.
Is summer dead? Well, it certainly seems to have peaked. The consistently cooler than average temperatures this August have certainly taken the edge off of what had been a nominally warm summer season.
The funnel cloud seen by so many people on the northern side of the greater Fargo metro area Wednesday evening has created a good discussion point. Why wasn't there a tornado warning issued by the National Weather Service? After all, there was a funnel cloud seen by hundreds, maybe thousands of people hanging over the greatest population density in the region.
Numerous news reports last week were touting the record heat wave building into the Pacific Northwest. The Weather Channel was predicting 109 degrees for Portland, for example, an all-time high. CNN was reporting that Seattle would reach 100, which has happened just three times since 1894. Well, it certainly was hot. But no all-time record highs were broken during the heat wave. Temperatures of 103 and 105 were recorded in Portland while Seattle's hottest day was 94.