Warm winter set to break records
FARGO -- If the forecast holds up, Old Man Winter may not need an extra day in February to leap into the record books this year.
Fargo's current record for most days above freezing during the meteorological winter months of December to February is 44 days, set in 1923-24.
The 44th day occurred on Leap Day, Feb. 29, which is coming up again at the end of this month.
As of Friday, Fargo had logged 41 days above freezing this winter. With highs predicted to be above 32 degrees today and Sunday -- and possibly through Wednesday, depending on how much snow falls Monday -- there's a good chance the 88-year-old record will fall, said Daryl Ritchison, WDAY meteorologist.
Fargo also is on pace to break the record for highest average winter temperature. This winter's average of about 22.04 degrees is .07 degrees higher than the current record of 21.97 degrees set in 1986-87.
"I'd be very surprised if we didn't finish in the top three," Ritchison said.
Fargo's 12 inches of snowfall this season already exceeded the 9.3 inches that fell in 1957, the winter with the least recorded snow. To claim second place, Fargo must get no more than 1 inch of snow the rest of the season.
There's no significant snow in the forecast, but it's impossible to predict what March and April will bring, Ritchison said.
"Once you get into spring, the reality is it's a transitional zone," he said. "It would take one storm. We all know we can get 10 inches of snow from any event at any time."
Fargo-Moorhead has been blizzard-free so far this winter, which Ritchison said is "really not that unusual" and not a predictor of spring weather.
"I don't think the odds this year are necessarily any less than any other year to have (a blizzard) in the next six weeks," he said.
The mild winter weather isn't as uncommon as some might believe, Ritchison said, adding people seem to have short memories when it comes to weather.
Of the top 20 winters with the warmest average temperatures, six have occurred since 1997-98, the most recent in 2006-07. And three winters last decade -- 2002-03, 2004-05 and 2006-07 -- had snowfall totals below 39 inches, the median total since 1885.
"Certainly, in comparison to the last four (winters), it has obviously been a complete change, and I think that's why people think that this is really unusual," he said.
The lack of snow this year has given snowplow crews plenty of time to catch up on other work. In Moorhead, they've been patching potholes, cleaning equipment and painting walls, among other tasks, Operations Director Chad Martin said.
The city won't store its snowplows until mid-April, and crews hope to use them before then, he said.
"They've been restless for a month," Martin said.
Nowatzki is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.