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January thaw in Grand Forks could be due to El Niño, but it’s too early to tell

The last two weeks have been absolutely beautiful in Grand Forks, unless you happen to be a snowman or snowmobiler. "This is terrible," said Josh Nordine who was at Dakota Outdoors in Grand Forks on Monday, dropping off the snowmobile he has hasn...

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Lynn Stallman moves a four-wheeler into his shop at Dakota Outdoors on Monday, Jan 26, 2015, in Grand Forks, N.D. Stallman says he has noticed a decline in snowmobile sales and repair due to the lack of snow. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

The last two weeks have been absolutely beautiful in Grand Forks, unless you happen to be a snowman or snowmobiler .

"This is terrible," said Josh Nordine who was at Dakota Outdoors in Grand Forks on Monday, dropping off the snowmobile he has hasn't used much this year. "It's my favorite time of year, and it's T-shirt weather out here."

Warm temps have affected business, too, according to Dakota Outdoors mechanic Lynn Stallman.

"It's been a little slower with the snowmobiles," he said. "There's no snow; people aren't riding."

While New York braces for what could be one of the most brutal blizzards in city history , Grand Forks has enjoyed a two-week average of relatively balmy 28.5 degrees. Temperatures have been at or above freezing 14 times since Jan. 14 and peaked at 44 degrees on Jan. 23. That's the warmest it has been since Nov. 7, according to the Grand Forks office of the National Weather Service.

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Jim Kaiser, a meteorologist with the weather service, said this type of January thaw only occurs about once every 10 years.

"About 10 times in the last 100 years we've seen temperatures around this warm or warmer (in January)" he said.

Kaiser said that these warm periods don't occur on regular intervals, but the last similar warm stretch over the same two weeks occurred in 2010 and before that in 2006.

Kaiser said there are two main causes for this warm stretch -- a shallow snowpack in the region and air masses coming from the west instead of Canada.

These westerly winds could be bringing warm air masses due to El Niño, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines as "a disruption of the ocean-atmosphere system in the Tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather and climate around the globe."

El Niño results in warm surface temperatures on the Pacific Ocean, so when winds blow to the Red River Valley from the west, warm air masses cause warmer weather.

Kaiser described this season as a "borderline El Niño winter."

"It's kind of there, it's kind of not," he said, adding the current warmer winter weather pattern would have to continue for the remainder of the season to classify this winter as such.

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NOAA's website says there is a 50 to 60 percent chance of El Niño conditions during the next two months.

The last El Niño was the 2009-2010 winter season.

This week, the weather service predicts highs of 37 on Tuesday, 33 on Wednesday and 21 on both Thursday and Friday.

 

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Josh Nordine drops his snowmobile off with Mike Swehla at Dakota Outdoors on Monday, Jan 26, 2015, in Grand Forks, N.D. Due to warm weather and lack of snow, Nordine has been unable to ride as often as he would like. "This is terrible, it's my favorite time of year and it's t-shirt weather out here," he said. (Logan Werlinger/Grand Forks Herald)

Related Topics: WEATHER
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