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The dry fall has left the Red River lower than it has been in recent months in Fargo-Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
The dry fall has left the Red River lower than it has been in recent months in Fargo-Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Fall one of driest on record

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Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - The abnormally dry fall will finish among the driest on record, and parts of eastern North Dakota now are on the verge of moderate drought.

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Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota state climatologist, said Tuesday that the official drought monitor map to be released Thursday is expected to show portions of eastern North Dakota in moderate drought.

That will be the first time since Sept. 15, 2009, or 115 consecutive weeks, that a part of North Dakota has been deemed in drought, he said.

"It is significant," he added, noting the unusually dry conditions come in the midst of a long wet pattern. "Especially eastern North Dakota has been very dry."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Red River at Fargo-Moorhead was at 14.49 feet. That's almost 2 feet below the 16.12 recorded a year ago - but twice the long-term average flows for the date, Akyuz said.

Fargo-Moorhead so far has dodged significant snow, but brown Novembers actually aren't such a rare occurrence.

In the 119 years of reliable weather data for Fargo, the first day of measurable snow - an inch or more - has arrived later than Nov. 25.

In the winters following those brown Novembers, snow totals have ranged from 13.1 inches to 59.9 inches, which fell in the 2007-08 winter, records show.

Thus, if the pattern holds, Fargo would get more snow than average this winter, 50.1 inches, but less than some of the very snowy recent winters.

Of the 55 recorded drier-than-normal falls, only two were followed by floods: the falls of 1964 and 1974, followed by the floods of 1965, with a crest of 30.5 feet, and 1975, with a crest of 33.26 feet.

Meanwhile, the forecast called for a 50 percent chance of snow tonight, but both Akyuz and Daryl Ritchison, a WDAY meteorologist, said any snowfall likely would be light.

In fact, the Climate Prediction Center said there was a 90 percent chance there would be less than an inch of snow. If so, November likely will end as the third or fourth driest on record.

In November as of Tuesday, Fargo received 0.24 inch of precipitation, with snow totaling 0.6 inch, compared to the normal 7.2 inches. The fall precipitation to date is 1.41 inches, compared to a normal of 5.66 inches.

Although another La Niña pattern is in place, often a sign of a winter that is colder and snowier than usual, the trend so far is wimpy, Ritchison said.

"We are right on the edge, so it's as weak a La Niña as you can get," he said.

Still, Ritchison said, recent Decembers have been very snowy, and one big storm can make a dramatic difference in a season's snow total.

"December has been our great nemesis," he said. "It has been Decembers that have really set us off the last several winters."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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