John was born in Baton Rouge, LA, and grew up near Birmingham, Alabama. As a teenager, his family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, and later to a small town in northeast Iowa. John traces his early interest in weather to the difference in climate between Alabama and Wisconsin. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a degree in meteorology. Like any meteorologist, John is intrigued by extremes of weather, especially arctic air outbreaks and winter storms. John has been known to say he prefers his summers to be hot but in winter, he prefers the cold. When away from work, John enjoys long-distance running and reading. John has been a meteorologist at WDAY since May of 1985.
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Caddo County, just west of Oklahoma City, has been hit by at least 111 tornadoes from 1950 through 2012. The rest of central Oklahoma is about as unlucky. Geography is to blame, particularly from mid-April through mid-June when conditions ideal for tornadoes occur with regular frequency. The Gulf of Mexico and its warm, humid air is close by to the south. Just to the west and northwest is Colorado and, in particular, the Colorado Front Range with its peaks to 13,000 feet.
This week in 1995, our region was experiencing a rare early summer heat wave. For eight days, from June 14-21, the high temperature in Fargo-Moorhead reached at least 90 degrees. This included six consecutive days and nights in which the temperature never went lower than 70 degrees even at night. The hottest day during the stretch was June 17 when it reached 100 degrees. Temperatures of 100 degrees or warmer are extremely rare in the Fargo area during June. With records going back to 1881, days in the 100s during June have only happened 10 times, four of them in 1933.
In anything worth doing, there are fundamental, repetitive tasks that must be mastered in order to achieve excellence. A musician must practice scales. An artist must draw perspectives. For meteorologists, that fundamental task is map analysis.
FARGO — It's May and yesterday, the last day of April, hit a high temperature of 80 degrees here. It was this April's highest temperature. The recent warmth and sunshine make it easy to forget how cold it was for much of last month. The coldest temperature here this April was 3 degrees on both April 6 and 7. For the first time in recorded history, the temperature in Fargo-Moorhead remained continuously below freezing for the first nine days of April. Records began in 1881, making the start to this past April the coldest in 138 years.
In this season of rain, snow, rain or snow, and even rain mixed with snow, there is one significant difference between the two main kinds of precipitation worth noting. Rain falls faster. An average-size raindrop falls at about 25 to 30 feet per second. This means a raindrop observed on Doppler radar some 5,000 feet over Fargo will reach the ground about three minutes later, give or take. A snowflake, however, has various degrees of feathering to its structure, and falls much more slowly.
On television, we show storms as an "L" on the weather map, often surrounded by isobars (lines indicating air pressure). This can create the impression that a storm is some sort of an entity. But a storm has no skin, no exoskeleton and no real external boundaries. There is only one thing that storms (precipitating ones, anyway) have in common.
Solar radiation from strong March sunlight has caused snow to melt every afternoon this week, despite cold temperatures. But very little snow has melted. Obviously, warmer weather will help to melt snow faster. Interestingly, the best weather for quickly melting snow might not be what you think. A warm, sunny day is not always a great eater of snow cover.
With 9 inches of old winter snow on the ground Sunday, March 4, thundershowers rolled in from the south producing pea- to marble-sized hail, along with thunder and lightning. The next day, we were buried under half a foot of fresh snow. "Only in North Dakota," wrote everybody in North Dakota on Facebook. Across the river in Minnesota, people wrote, "Only in Minnesota." Logically these statements cannot both be correct. But from a climatological point of view, both statements are fundamentally wrong, anyway.
February is the driest month of the year based on average precipitation (rain plus melted snow). Part of the reason is that there are fewer days in the month. But the difference between February precipitation (0.59 inch), January precipitation (0.71 inch) and December precipitation (0.83 inch) cannot be accounted for by the three extra days. It usually just doesn't snow as much in February.
Kivalina, a village in northwest Alaska on the seacoast, may well become the first U.S. community to be relocated or face abandonment from the effects of global climate change. The problems in Kivalina are multi-faceted, but the biggest problems are associated with changes in sea ice. The sea now freezes over much later in the fall and opens up earlier in the spring. Ice was routinely 12 feet thick years ago but now is often unsafe for travel.