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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So far this spring, there has not really been much thunderstorm activity. A few thunderstorms brought some tiny hail back on March, but most of the precipitation we've received this spring has been snow or plain old rain. It is pretty standard to get through April without much in the way of strong thunderstorms. Usually, May is when storms start getting strong enough to get weather forecasters worried about damage and safety. The big difference is humidity. Thunderstorms thrive in environments with high humidity.
Going back to 1881, the average last 32 degree temperature in Fargo Moorhead is May 13. Over the past 30 years, the average has shifted to May 8. But before you plant all your pansies and posies, consider how cold it has been the past couple of weeks. After all, an average is just the middle of a period of record and should only vaguely represent expectations. In the past, freezing weather has been recorded in Fargo-Moorhead as late as June 20, in 1969. Temperatures into the 30s (38) have happened as late as June 28, in 1895.
The average has a problem. It is terribly misunderstood. Weather is full of averages. We have our average highs and lows, our average snowfalls and rainfalls. We have average wind, average sunshine, even an average first 80 degree day of the year. The problem is, many people have the idea that these averages represent what the weather should be doing, which is not it at all.
The cold weather this past week has cooled a lot of people's gardening plans. But when warmer weather returns, the question, "When is it safe to plant?" will again arise. In truth, in our region it is never really safe to plant until it is too late to plant. There are temperatures below 32 degrees on record as late as June 20 in Fargo. Based on the past three decades, the date of the average last 32 degree temperature is May 8. But this is only an average.
This week has been designated Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week in North Dakota. The focus today is on summer heat waves. It is difficult to imagine hot weather during a week of cold spring weather, but spring will come back eventually and will be followed surely by some semblance of summer.
This week has been designated Severe Summer Weather Awareness Week in North Dakota. It is an excellent opportunity to set up your designated shelter and develop your household plan in the event of a tornado or severe thunderstorm warning. This plan should include a safe place to go to in the event of a bad storm, usually in the basement, under the stairs or a steady table. Keep old bike helmets there to wear just in case and old shoes are a good idea in case there is storm damage and you have to run there in your bare feet.
A few scattered thundershowers Friday night was not enough to change the fact that this has been a dry spring so far. Soils have been dry due to the lack of winter snow meltwater and an absence of general rain so far. But this is actually quite common and probably preferably to a very wet April. Soggy fields would delay planting, and generous rain is far more likely in late April and May as opposed to March and early April.
This summer, on Aug. 21, an eclipse of the sun will be visible across the United States. The total eclipse will be visible only in a narrow path from Oregon to South Carolina. The shadow of totality crosses central Wyoming before swiping across Nebraska into Missouri in a grand arc from west to southeast. Here in Fargo-Moorhead, the sun will be 80 percent obscured, which will create an eerie, thin light at about 1 p.m.
The lack of snow this spring is remarkable. Only 1.6 inches of snow has fallen since March 1. This is the ninth-least amount of snow to fall in spring in Fargo-Moorhead on record. The least amount was a trace in 2010, and that remains the only spring since 1886 to go without any measureable snow. The record for the most snowfall after March 1 is 33.6 inches in 1997. In second place is 31.3 inches in 2013. In third place is 29.6 inches in 1904. Fourth and fifth places are held by the springs in 2009 (28.3 inches) and 2008 (28.1 inches).
The last measurable snow to fall on Fargo-Moorhead was the 1.5 inches March 12. The only other snow since the start of March was a tenth of an inch on March 1. No snow has fallen so far in April, so total snow since March 1 is 1.6 inches. Going back to 1886, there are only nine spring seasons with less snow than we have received so far this spring. There is only one year on record without any measurable snow after March 1, and that was in 2010. However, there are eight other spring seasons with less than an inch and a half.