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Kevin Bonham, Forum Communications Co., Published January 30 2012

Old weather records melting

FARGO – Snowbirds might want to rethink their annual travel plans.

The Red River Valley is on its way to the warmest fall and winter on record.

In Fargo, the average daily temperature has been 38.2, breaking the old mark of 36.7, set in 1932 and matched in 2006.

Unofficially, the average daily temperature from Sept. 1 to Jan. 29 has been 35.9 degrees in Grand Forks.

That’s nearly 2 degrees above the previous record average of 34.1 in 2006, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks.

“When you look at 150 days, and you’re looking at 1-plus degrees over the previous records, that’s pretty impressive,” said Mark Ewens, climate forecaster for the weather service in Grand Forks.

Those snowbirds also might have noticed in the U.S. Drought Monitor report last week that the Red River Valley is likely to endure moderate drought conditions over the next three months, while the rest of North Dakota and northwest Minnesota should be abnormally dry.

The warm-weather records will not be official until temperatures from Monday and today are added to the mix, but the weather is not likely to change the reality.

“It’s unusual and it’s record-setting. But we’ve had similar occurrences in the last decade,” Ewens said. “With all the snow we’ve had these last three years before this one, we kind of forget that we’ve had some warm winters recently.”

In fact, considering the September-through-January period, six of the top 10 warmest falls and winters in Fargo have occurred since the 2001-2002 seasons: 2002, 2006, 2007 and 2012. Grand Forks, meanwhile, has experienced four of its top 10 warmest falls and winters since the 1999-2000 seasons: 2000, 2002, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2012.

The weather service acknowledges that climate change has contributed to the warmer winters over the past few decades.

In Fargo, the top 10 stretches all the way back to 1920-21, while 1932 and 2006 are tied for second on the list at 36.7 degrees. In addition, the years 1921, 1942 and 1944 tied for seventh.

In Grand Forks, all of the top 10 records – again for Sept. 1-Jan. 29 – have occurred since 1981, with three in the 1980s, but just one in the 1990s.


Kevin Bonham writes for the Grand Forks Herald