It is often customary at the end of a year to look back at the events of the previous 365 days . In that tradition here is my list of the Top 5 weather events (or periods) of 2014.
1. The Cold Winter.
On the top of the list was the cold winter of 2013-2014. Granted, the first month of winter (December) was not technically a 2014 event, yet even if we start on January 1, the remaining winter period (through February 28) was exceptionally cold, even by our cold standards. The winter of 2013-2014 (December 1 through February 28) was ranked by NCDC as the 24th coldest winter of record for the state with many locations in eastern North Dakota ranking much higher.
Not only was the winter season cold it was was also windy. Several blizzards were recorded, especially in late December 2013 into January 2014. There were at least 5 blizzards during that time frame, all of which being ground blizzards. In other words, no falling snow, just blowing and drifting snow from strong wind events. There was also two more blizzard events in March, one early in the month and the other on March 31. In total at least 7 blizzards were recorded from December through March somewhere in North Dakota (let me know if I missed one).
2. The cold and wind that lead to the #1 weather event of 2014 correlates well into what I consider the the #2 event. The poor planting season, or in other words, it was a miserable spring season after a difficult winter.
Although the winter was cold, it was not exceptionally snowy for most of North Dakota will snow total either near or slightly below the long term mean. The southern Red River Valley recorded below average snowfall and with a slow melt and no rainfall the Red River at Fargo crested below flood from the spring snow melt.
In the graphic below the spring snow melt crest is the first uptick in the first part of April 2014. Yet, if you look further into the year you will notice two distinct periods when the Red River at Fargo did greatly exceed flood stage. Both of those upticks, one around the first of May and the second toward the end of June were associated with excessive rain events.
The first of these events occurred in the final week of April when 2 to 4 inches of rain was recorded in much of the eastern one-half of North Dakota into northwestern Minnesota. The rain was heaviest in southeastern North Dakota that quickly pushed the Red River well above flood stage.
The Red River at Fargo crested close to 27 feet from this event. The Wild Rice River (ND) also crested well above flood stage (not shown) along much of the course of that river.
The Red River at Grand Forks did have a spring snow melt crest above flood stage in early April because of the higher snow totals from the previous winter in the central and northern Red River Valley, but only briefly crested above flood stage from the heavy rain event(s) of late April 2014 in early May (green line below).
This excessive rain in late April into May in combination with below average temperatures kept many farmers from planting during the spring, it was just plainly too wet to get into the fields and the areas that did miss the excessive rain, it was too cold to plant. Temperatures ranged from anywhere from 3 to 7 degrees below average during the spring months (March through May).
With more excessive rains in June, the Palmer Index had all of North Dakota in moist or extremely moist conditions. Planting Season 2014 was the second straight year of delayed planting for many in the upper Midwest.
3. Late September Heat
The warm season in North Dakota did not record many days with high temperatures in the 90s. The first week of September recorded highs in the 70s and 80s across the region, but on September 8, a cold front pushed through the state and the following week the temperatures were well below average. As an example, Williston recorded a high of 86 degrees on September 7, but on September 10 the high was only 46 degrees.
The cold temperatures lead to an early season frost that either ended the growing season in some localized areas or did noticeable crop damage that did impact yield potential during harvest for many others. After that period of cold temperatures, a brief period of well above temperatures moved into the northern plains. These warmer temperatures ended up being close to the warmest recorded in 2014.
At least one NDAWN station recorded a high of 90 degrees or higher in a stretch from September 24-27. September 25 and 26 were the warmest of the days with fairly widespread high temperatures near or above 90 degrees (see graphics below). The warmest temperature during this stretch was a 98 degree high at the NDAWN station near Williston, North Dakota on September 25. That was the warmest temperature so late in the year at any NDAWN station since the network was started and it was also the warmest so late in the season at the Williston Airport (which recorded a high of 97° that day) since recorded started there in the late 1800s.
It was impressive heat for so late in the season and that 98° was the second warmest temperature of the year in the state of North Dakota. The Williston Airport recorded a high of 99° on July 5, 2014. This lack of 100s this year takes us to my #4 most notable event of 2014.
4. Lack of 100s
The summer of 2014 was cooler than average, not only in most of North Dakota, but also in much of the central part of the lower 48 states.
With the cool temperatures came, as likely no surprise, a lack of 90° or warmer readings being recorded in North Dakota this past year.
With so few 90s it means that 100° readings were also lacking this year. In fact, 2014 was only the second year since 1893 without a single 100° temperature reported in North Dakota. The warmest temperature in 2014 was a 99° high at the Williston Airport on July 5. The only other year on record without an “official” 100° maximum recorded somewhere in North Dakota was back in 1993.
5. Severe weather was notably lacking during 2014. Only 18 tornadoes (all relatively weak and short lived) were reporting during the severe weather season with 5 of those reported during one event. It was on Monday, July 21, 2014 during the late afternoon and evening hours, a derecho (a long-lived line of severe thunderstorms) moved across North Dakota. This event would not be considered out of the range of a “normal” summer severe weather event, but because it occurred to a relatively quiet severe weather summer, it was notable in being the most damaging of the summer. The strong wind associated with this event caused damage from near Dickinson to Grand Forks.
The derecho continued into the early hours of July 22 extending all the way to Lake Superior before weakening. The most widespread damage in North Dakota occurred from Carrington to Grand Forks where several tornadoes (5, plus one in Minnesota) developed along the bow echo. The top wind speed recorded at any of the NDAWN sites was a 73 mph wind gust at the McHenry station in eastern Eddy County with higher speeds likely in localized areas based on damage reports.
The thunderstorms not only produced strong wind and some tornadoes, but also localized heavy rain. The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks recorded 2.74 inches of rain and the Michigan NDAWN station recorded 4.00 inches that day. It was the most widespread severe weather event of the season to date and also the biggest rain maker for the month of July in the state.
There were certainly other events, that could have made this list, the March 31, 2014 Blizzard comes to mind as well as the heavy rains in southwestern North Dakota on two occasions this past summer. The southwestern part of North Dakota did record the wettest August of record and one of the wettest summers on record which certainly gives those events honorable mention for most significant weather events of 2014.
Happy New Year.