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Daryl Ritchison, WDAY, Published November 20 2012

Weather Talk: Lack of snow cover key to warm 2011-12 winter

The winter of 2011-12 was the warmest on record in Fargo-Moorhead. There is no doubt that the overall pattern last winter was a mild one. The upper-level wind pattern was consistently from the west allowing mild Pacific air to dominate the season.

But another very important element to the warmth was our lack of snow cover. This past week has been a prime example. Fargo-Moorhead missed most of the big storm earlier this month that left a significant snow cover over central and northern North Dakota. For the eight days following that storm, the average high in Fargo was 40 degrees. In usually warmer Bismarck, the snow cover held the average high to just 32 degrees. Even in Grand Forks, where there was minimal snow from the storm, the nearby snowpack lowered their average to just 33 degrees.

The sun angle is so low this time of year that snow does not readily melt. So an early snowstorm can sometimes influence the average temperature for the entire cold season.


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