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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The National Weather Service winter outlook, released Thursday, Oct. 19, indicates a likelihood of a colder than average and snowier than average winter across North Dakota and northern Minnesota. But there is no reason to panic about a brutal winter just yet. A weather outlook for an entire season is not the same as a seven-day forecast. Physics models are of no use. Instead, forecasters look at large-scale anomalies around the world and compare results from past winters to create analogs. The result is a set of probabilities.
For the second time this month, the air Wednesday, Oct. 18, was filled with tiny, feathery floaters. The general consensus is that the fuzzy fliers were cattail seeds, but many people were alarmed because they had not seen so many cattail seeds before. Some suggested the seed showers were another sign of climate change. North Dakota has a lot of wetlands and both times the fuzzies have filled the air, it has been with a strong west wind. Instead of jumping to a heavy conclusion when confronted with then unknown, it might be better to look for a simpler, more elegant explanation.
Saying "A thousand one, a thousand two, a thousand three" is a handy way of approximating the length of a few seconds of time. But there is a more precise way. An atomic second is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between two hyperfine levels of the ground state of cesium 133 atoms. Although this detail may not seem relevant to much in our daily life, it actually is more relevant than we might think. Because we can measure time so precisely now, it is possible to measure the length of a full day very accurately.
Despite the cool weather today, there is still plenty of time for warm weather before winter. However, it is likely that the 93-degree temperature back on Sept. 7 was the final 90-degree day of 2017. Two autumns ago, it was 97 in Fargo on Oct. 11 and that is the latest 90-degree day on record. So with the present pattern featuring near-average temperatures, it is unlikely there will be any more 90-degree weather for another six to eight months. There were 12 90-degree days in 2017, which is near the average of 13. Three of the hot days happened in June. There were seven in July.
Most of us have very poor weather memories. We remember extreme weather, especially when it coincides with a particular life event such as wedding or the birth of a child. But we are terrible at remembering a lot of the details and we are simply awful at recalling mundane weather. This is why anecdotal evidence of many kinds of natural weather predictors is not a reliable way to forecast.
The Atlantic hurricane season continues to be an active one, with another tropical storm approaching the Gulf Coast this weekend. Nate is less of a storm than Harvey, Irma and Maria were. But Nate is also the 14th letter of the alphabet, which shows just how active the Atlantic has been this fall. Meanwhile, tropical storms in the Pacific Ocean have been few and far between this year. It usually works out this way. Hurricanes like weak upper level winds. Calm air aloft allows thunderstorms over warm, tropical water to organize into the massive storm system that is a hurricane.
Is it too early to snow? It depends on your attitude. But factually and statistically, early October snow is rare but not without precedent. An Oct. 7 snowstorm in 1985 brought a significant snow to areas just north of Fargo-Moorhead, with Grand Forks getting 6 inches, Langdon 10 inches, and up to 17 inches in north-central North Dakota at Velva. Oct. 1-2, 1950, brought 3 to 6 inches of snow to areas near the Canadian border in both North Dakota and Minnesota. From Oct. 7-11, 1970, some parts of northern Minnesota had over a foot of snow that even produced some road closures.
The solar eclipse in August was a spectacular celestial event, due in part to its rarity. Total solar eclipses happen somewhere on Earth about every 18 months on average, but they are only seen along a narrow path because the shadow cone-shaped cast by the moon is barely large enough to reach Earth at all. This makes them quite rare except for those willing to travel to see them. Lunar eclipses, on the other hand, are visible every few years or so from all around the world, provided it is a clear night.
(WDAY/WDAZ TV) Severe thunderstorms are likely this Tuesday evening and night across the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota. A strong upper level low pressure area approaching from the Pacific Northwest is causing strong southwesterly winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere. At the surface, muggy conditions and a strong southeast wind is undercutting this upper flow, creating an explosive storm situation. The moist air will be forced upward and the wind structure will create an environment in which strong, rotating storm updrafts are likely.
Temperatures have certainly been up and down lately. As summer turns to fall, it is natural for there to be greater day to day variability in the weather. The difference between a cool summer day and a hot summer day might be 30 degrees, whereas winter temperatures can vary by twice that. The primary reason for this is the temperature gradient across the Northern Hemisphere. The equatorial regions of the Earth have temperatures near 90 degrees all year. But at the North Pole, summer temperatures hover near freezing, while winter temperatures are often 50 degrees below zero.