The temperature sensor at the official gauge for Fargo-Moorhead at Hector International Airport malfunctioned late last week, indicating a temperature of 50 degrees late Thursday night. The temperature was actually 35 degrees at the time. Temperatures in the 50s in Fargo-Moorhead during January are rare, obviously, but not entirely unknown. Ten of the 31 days in January sport a record high temperature in the 50s, so it does happen occasionally. The years 2012, 2002, 1981, 1942, 1931, 1908 and 1900 all have at least one daily record in the 50s.
Whenever we get a spell of snow-melting weather in January, a few people always ask if this is "The January Thaw." There is no such thing as "The January Thaw." There are, however, usually at least a couple of days of thawing temperatures at some point in any winter month in our region. This is due to the natural up-and-down, highly variable nature of our climate, particularly in winter.
The frigid weather that persisted most of the first two weeks of this month has prompted a lot of people to ask why the weather has been so unusually cold. It hasn't, actually. Although temperatures have been consistently below average so far in 2017, none of this weather has been unusually cold. No temperature records have been broken. In fact, the average lowest temperature of a winter season is 27 below and we have not been that cold yet this winter.
The blowing snow Thursday created another round of beautiful sun dogs in the sky, prompting a number of questions about how and why they form. Sun dogs are caused by hexagonal ice crystals suspended in the air that refract sunlight. This usually happens for one of three reasons.
On Christmas Day, a somewhat rare ice storm left three-quarters of an inch of ice on most of our area. Three weeks have passed, and many of our sidewalks are still covered in three-quarters of an inch of ice.
The last time the temperature in Fargo-Moorhead officially reached 30 below was Jan. 2, 2010, when the low temperature of the day was 33 degrees below zero. Six years is a long time, historically, to have gone without any minus 30 temperatures. The year, 2010, was the third consecutive winter with a temperature of at least 30 below, suggesting the current six-year run is more of a statistical blip than a trend.
here are all sorts of fascinating winter phenomena. Some we see often enough that they stop being fascinating. I mean, catch a snowflake on a glove some time and just look at its structure. It's a tiny little miracle of physics. Snow rollers, however, are rare enough that they never stop being amazing.
The coldest of cold temperatures require extraordinary weather conditions. Most record lows in the winter are set when extremely cold air moves over our region in conjunction with a clear night when the snow cover is relatively deep. Usually the wind is light and is blowing from some direction other than due south.
During last weekend's cold snap, there were various media and social media attempts to put our cold temperatures into perspective, most of which failed. One was the comparison of Fargo-Moorhead temperature (-20 degrees) to the South Pole (0 degrees). Actually, a temperature near zero at the South Pole is above average, but it is important to remember that it is summer at the South Pole, making this comparison somewhat irrelevant.
During last weekend's cold snap, there were various media and social media attempts to put our cold temperatures into perspective, most of which failed. One was the comparison of the Fargo-Moorhead temperature (-20 degrees) to the South Pole (0 degrees). Actually, a temperature near zero at the South Pole is above average, but it is important to remember that it is summer at the South Pole, making this comparison somewhat irrelevant.