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Weather Talk: It's not as cold as it used to be

Although our region did experience about three weeks of cold weather starting around Christmas, it was never unusually cold. The lowest temperature during that stretch was minus 24 degrees on the morning of New Year's Eve.

Over the past three decades, the average coldest temperature of winter has been around 27 below zero. The last time it was as cold as the minus 30s here in Fargo-Moorhead was the morning of Jan. 2, 2010.

Historically, extremely cold temperatures have correlated well to winters with deep snow. This is due to the reflective and insulating qualities of a deep snowpack.

But extremely cold temperatures have been in a general decline over the past few decades, which encompass many very snowy winters.

Fargo's urban heat island certainly has an effect. But the overriding fact is that we are just not getting those extremely cold masses of air as frequently as in times past, and when it does get cold, it usually is not quite as cold.

John Wheeler

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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