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Winter for the ages so far, but here comes helping of normal

SOUTHERN TRAILL COUNTY, N.D. -- Frogs were hopping Monday near Newfolden, Minn., and workers were laying drain tile three feet deep in a farm field southwest of Hillsboro, N.D., as the record warm late fall and early winter kept on into the secon...

Jamie Gibson
Jamie Gibson of Agassiz Drain Tile inspects the shank of a plow Monday on a field southwest of Hillsboro, N.D. The warm winter has allowed drain tile installation to continue a month after workers would normally be out of the field. Herald photo by Eric Hylden

SOUTHERN TRAILL COUNTY, N.D. -- Frogs were hopping Monday near Newfolden, Minn., and workers were laying drain tile three feet deep in a farm field southwest of Hillsboro, N.D., as the record warm late fall and early winter kept on into the second week of January.

A record temperature was set in Fargo, and nearly so in Grand Forks.

And actually it was just one frog known to have been up and around Monday.

Andrea Hanson, who lives seven miles northwest of Newfolden found a frog on her sidewalk Monday afternoon and emailed a photo to the Herald.

"The sun was really warm in our yard today and I have lots of flowerbeds around, so I don't know if it came up out of one of them or what," she said. "It was pretty big."

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The frog hopped "a little bit," and she returned it to a flower bed to find its way back underground, she said.

'Freeze-tolerant'

It's uncommon to find a wood frog like this one in January, but understandable this year, said Bob Newman, biology professor at UND who is an expert on wood frogs. He's studied them in Alaska as well as in these parts.

Hanson's frog is one of two species -- chorus frogs are the other -- known to be "freeze-tolerant," Newman said in an email, after viewing Hanson's photo. That means they actually can freeze solid -- the scientific term he uses is "frogsicles" -- and make it through to croak in the summer.

He figures it was wintering in a spot that got exposed enough to sun in recent days that it thawed out and moved along, because it didn't have enough snow cover to insulate it from the sun and warm air.

Such a wake-up call isn't good news for the frog because it now used up stored fat at a higher rate due to its waked-up metabolism, meaning it may have a tough go the rest of the winter, with no way to eat until spring, Newman said.

Digging in winter

Meanwhile, a trio of warm-blooded men from Agassiz Drain Tile had better prospects for survival as they worked until dark Monday in a southern Traill County farm field, digging down 3-inch plastic pipe to nearly three feet below the surface, to provide better drainage next year for the farmer.

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Normally, this would not be possible on Jan. 9, said Derek Peterson, a manager at Agassiz, based in Buxton, N.D.

"Last year, we were done by Dec. 1, and two years ago we went until Dec. 11 and we thought that was crazy," Peterson said.

"Every job we've been on the last three weeks, we said, 'This is the last one of the year,'" said Jamie Gibson, who was running the giant tracked plow.

Gibson said the frost is about a foot deep in farm fields, but because of the lack of moisture, the frost line really isn't a factor.

The National Sunflower Association, meanwhile, sent out a memo to growers Monday to check their bins because the warm temperatures might make sun seeds go bad easier that if it was a normal winter.

Records fall

And records continued to fall.

Fargo set a high temperature record for the date of 51 degrees, breaking the previous record of 49 degrees set in 1958.

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At Grand Forks International Airport it hit 46 degrees, just one degree below the record set in 1958; at the UND reporting site it got to 44 degrees, three degrees below the 1958 record of 47.

In fact, this little section of the globe has been warmer this fall and winter than ever in recorded history.

So far.

According to the weather service office in Grand Forks, the period from Nov. 1 to Jan. 7 was warmer this season than any other corresponding 68-day period ending Jan. 7 since 1850, in both Grand Forks and Fargo.

The average daily average temperature for the 68 days ended Saturday at the UND reporting site was 26.5 degrees, besting the previous record of 26.2 set in 1914. Third highest was 25.2 set for the 68-day period ended Jan. 7, 2007.

Fourth-warmest for the same period was a tie, hit in 2000 and again in 2002, of 25.1 degrees.

Fargo's average daily average temperature -- adding the high and the low and halving the total -- was 29.2 degrees for the 68 days ended Saturday. That beat the previous record of 28.3 degrees set in 2007.

This year's data still are preliminary, according to the weather service.

The trend continued Sunday, with the temperature rising from mid-afternoon from 34 to about 40 degrees by midnight, 25 degrees above normal for Jan. 8.

Cold again

It will get into the 40s again Tuesday, then a cold front moves in as low temperatures will drop to single digits above zero in the Devils Lake and Grand Forks regions by Wednesday morning, and into the teens in northwest Minnesota, the weather service reported.

Windchills will be below zero.

Although conditions will improve, with highs in the 30s again this weekend, the outlook for late January is for colder than normal, although it's too early for much certainty, the weather service reported.

Light snow, of 1 to 3 inches, is expected to fall Wednesday across the northern Red River Valley.

On the web: To see Hanson's frog photo, go to www.GFHerald.com .

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send email to slee@gfherald.com

Related Topics: WEATHER
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