Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


What is our weather telling us?...

Posted 3/20/18 (Tue)

There’s no doubt North Dakota has four seasons. We can get as hot as the Arizona desert and as cold as the high Arctic.

We all know what happened in 1936. Steele had the hottest temperature ever recorded in the state at 121 and Parshall had the coldest at 60 below. That’s a temperature swing of 181 degrees in about six months.

Those are the kind of numbers that NASA is recording on the surface of Mars.

Those numbers tend to tell us something. It’s not so much about Feb. 15, 1936 or July 6, 1936, although those two days are significant. It’s over time dating back to 1874, where the numbers are telling us the mean temperature is rising across the state. 

The National Weather Service provides a wealth of knowledge on this subject. That organization has data as far back as 1874, which is one year after Bismarck was established in Dakota Territory.

All major reporting stations in western North Dakota have logged temperature data back to at least the 1890s, except Minot, which begins its statistics in 1905. Jamestown and Dickinson start in 1893 and Williston in 1894.

Taking a look at Bismarck’s data for no other reason than it has the longest history, we can see the trend of temperatures moving upward.

What the National Weather Service has done is record high and low daily temperatures throughout the year, then they boiled it down to an average temperature for that specific year.

Considering there are 144 years of data to work with, 12 of the warmest years on record have occurred in the past 30 years.

The oddball exception to that is 1921, when the average temperature was 44.4 degrees.

The warmest year was 2016 at 46.5 degrees with 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2001 in the top 20.

In case you are wondering about 1936, its number is 87, at least in Bismarck, presumably because of how cold that winter was.

And when we consider cold, we see the opposite. Thirteen of the 20 coldest years on record in Bismarck occurred in the 32 years from 1875 to 1907, the coldest being 34.5 degrees in 1875.

In this scenario, 1996 is the oddball exception at 38.7 degrees.

When you take all those years, add them up and come up with a 144-year average, the warmest is 2008 at 41.7 degrees and coldest 1915 at 41.6 degrees. That’s only a swing of 1 degree Fahrenheit, but consider the years in which they occurred given 144 years of data.

Minot’s numbers are very similar. Thirteen of the warmest years have occurred in the past 30 years. 2016 was the warmest at 47 degrees with 2012, fourth, 2006, sixth, 2015, eighth, 2017, ninth, 2001, 10th, 2005, 15th, 2007, 16th, 2000, 22nd, 2011, 24th and 2010, 30th. The other two years were 1998 and 1999.

The coldest years in Minot are a bit sketchy because eight years of data are missing starting with 1909 and ending with 1940.

Regardless, when considering the coldest 30 years on record, the most recent is 1935. The others are 1907, 1909, 1911, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1920, 1922 and 1927.

1936 is 95th on the heat scale and ninth on the cold scale. So, essentially what 1936 tells us is that it was a year of extremes unlike any other in recorded history.

When you take all 111 years, add them up and get an overall average for heat, it turns out to be 1995 at 40.5 degrees and coldest average was in 1914 when it was 40.2 degrees.

There are also statistics for precipitation.

Regarding Minot, 2017 was the second driest year on record with 7.59 inches. The driest was 1934 with 7.13. In case you’re wondering, 1936 had more rain than 2017. That year the National Weather Service recorded 7.83 inches making it the third driest.

Incidentally, the wettest year in Minot was 1975 with 28.39 inches of precipitation.

Regarding the Bismarck numbers, the driest year on record was indeed 1936 with only 5.97 inches of rain. 1934 was the second driest with 7.74 and 2017 came in 36th with 13.79 inches, nearly double Minot’s total ‘17.

Throughout recorded history in Bismarck and Minot, rainfall totals don’t appear to correlate with wet or dry, but seem to have happened at random.

What we do know is the average temperature continues to get warmer as time goes on.

If you don’t believe this information, go to the National Weather Service website and look for yourself. All reporting stations are available. You may have to dig a little bit, but they’re all there.