Winter not a record, but frigid temps were more frequent than normal
This past winter has been one of extremes, according to the National Weather Service. While not the coldest winter on record, this past winter in Grand Forks was notable for the "consistency of the cold," the National Weather Service said Monday....
This past winter has been one of extremes, according to the National Weather Service.
While not the coldest winter on record, this past winter in Grand Forks was notable for the “consistency of the cold,” the National Weather Service said Monday.
The low temperature was zero degrees or colder on 71 out of the 90 days in December, January and February, based on observations at the weather service’s office at UND. In a normal year, it would be 40 out of 90.
Winters normally are cold around here - and one might say that it still is winter given the continuing deep freeze - but in normal years powerful tropical storms in the Pacific would sometimes cause changes that bring some relative warmth to the area, according to meteorologist Mark Ewens.
This winter, those powerful storms were few and far between, he said.
He said the storms are back now so Grand Forks area residents can look forward to that shift from cold temperatures to warm to cold again, and also a bit more snow.
And, yes, meteorologically speaking, it’s spring now.
According to Ewens’ analysis, which was released Monday afternoon, this past winter has been one of near extremes.
It was the seventh coldest winter in 124 years of records. The average temperature was 1.5 degrees. In a normal winter, the average would be 10.9 degrees.
The average high was 10.9 degrees and the average low was 8 degrees below zero. In a normal year, that would be 19.4 and 2.5 degrees, respectively.
Ewens said it was probably the coldest winter in quite a while. “My 20-year-old son said, ‘This is the coldest winter I’ve ever lived, Dad.’ Yes, it has been.”
The large number of days with subzero temperatures also made this past winter the third most consistent on record. The most consistently cold winter was 1916-1917.
Winters tend to be warmer and drier in the Midwest when the Pacific Ocean is warm - that’s El Niño - and colder and snowier when the ocean is cold - that’s La Niña, according to Ewens.
During years in between those extremes, tropical storms cause the winter in the Midwest to vary greatly. The storms are often so large, as big as half the continental United States, they bump the jet stream northward, forcing cold arctic air back north.
Except there weren’t too many such storms this past winter so the cold air stayed put.
This past winter was stormier than normal for the Grand Forks region as well, according to the weather service. There were seven blizzards, more than the average of two to three a year, though not quite as bad as the 10 blizzards in 1996-1997.
A lot of snow fell this past winter, as well, with 44.1 inches on the ground compared to 28.2 in a normal winter. But all that snow contained the equivalent of 1.4 inches of water compared to the normal 1.95.
Ewens said snowflakes that form in very cold temperatures tend to be more air than water.
On the Web: To see the weather service report, go to tinyurl.com/lxdcwnn .