Dry weather, slow snow melt ideal for area
Warm, but not too warm. And dry. If Red River Valley residents could make a weather wish list for Mother Nature, that would be it.
A slow thaw cycle with limited precipitation would help alleviate spring flooding, meteorologists say.
Perfect conditions to counteract a rainy fall and wet winter would include lots of days that got just above freezing up to the mid-40s.
"Not so much that it all goes at once, and then dropping below freezing at night," said WDAY meteorologist Rob Kupec.
Brad Hopkins, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, also says a dry weather pattern with a slow melt is ideal, with low temperatures below or just above 32 degrees.
These conditions could be likely, as the region is in an El Niño pattern, which is usually dryer and warmer.
"With the El Niño pattern, the storms would stay further to the south and we would get minimal precipitation," Hopkins said.
But this year's El Niño hasn't been typical, Kupec said. While the end of January was, other parts of the winter have been colder and wetter - almost like La Niña.
"There's typical years, but every year is different," Hopkins said. "You can take a look back at past history and you can see what's typically happened and draw some general conclusions, but that's only general guidelines, not necessarily an indicator of what's going to happen."
Another factor working in the valley's favor is deep snow cover to the south, Kupec says.
For example, areas south of Fargo-Moorhead, such as Sisseton, S.D., had a reported 26 inches of snow Sunday while Sioux Falls, S.D., was at 15 inches, according to the weather service. Farther south, northern parts of Nebraska have 9 to 12 inches.
Last year at this time, Nebraska had little or no snow.
"A south wind is not going to bring as warm an air mass as it could other springs," preventing a fast warm-up and melt, Kupec said. "The warm air has to move across a lot of snow."
Kupec says it would be better if any precipitation came in the form of snow.
What's the worst-case scenario? Very rapid warming with no overnight freeze, Hopkins said. A week of colder weather last spring locked up the water, and slowed the flow into area rivers.
Worst-worst case? A lot of rainfall. The liquid water would melt the snow, and it would run overland, Hopkins said.
"Even if we had a big warm-up and it stayed dry ... that would probably be manageable," Kupec said.
According to the National Weather Service, today will see a high near 22, a low around 4, and a 20 percent chance of snow. Winds could gust as high as 24 mph.
Tuesday through Friday will see partly cloudy or mostly sunny skies. Overnight temperatures could get down to 15 below. Sunday is forecast to be the warmest day, with a high near 28.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Sherri Richards at (701) 241-5556