When colder is warmer

Cold temps, wind chills continue

Weather forecasters are optimistic that our sub-zero temperatures will burst above the zero reading as early as Monday.

Heat wave? Not hardly.

“It looks like Monday could get up to eight degrees or so,” said Jeff Shield, National Weather Service meteorologist in Bismarck. “That said, it will still stay cold even going through next week. Expect single digit highs. Normal for this time of year would be the mid-20’s.”

After the blast of arctic air that engulfed the region with wickedly low temperatures Thursday night and Friday morning, any thermometer reading on the plus side of zero will feel warm, agreed Shield.

Friday morning low temperatures were some of the coldest recorded in many years, in some cases record breaking. Williston recorded a new record low of minus 43 degrees early Friday morning and they weren’t alone in plunging below the minus 40 mark. Among other frigid places were Bottineau that bottomed out at minus 47 and Watford City minus 44.

Temperature readings of minus 30 and below were common throughout the western half of the state. Medora checked in at minus 39, Willow City minus 36 and Garrison minus 33. Minus 26 was recorded overnight in Minot and at the Minot Air Force Base.

Nighttime lows well below zero are expected in the region through the weekend.

“We’ll stay in this pattern for a while,” said Shield. “The next time it tries to warm up, maybe, a big maybe, maybe next weekend. But a lot can change between now and then.”

One change, despite the severe cold, is that snowfall could return to the Minot area next week.

“There’s a Colorado low which will lift through the Central Plains and the Upper Midwest,” explained Shield. “That system may only graze us but we may still see some impact from it with a few more inches of snow Monday and early Tuesday.”

With the dimming hopes of an El Nino forming and bringing with it somewhat higher temperatures, February is becoming one of the coldest, and snowiest, February’s in Minot history. Don’t look for any big warmup anytime soon either.

“We are going to stay in this cold pattern for probably another two weeks yet,” said Ken Simosko, Bismarck NWS meteorologist. “Perhaps in late February or early March we could see some temps at or slightly above average.”

Normal daytime highs for early March in the Minot area is 30-32 degrees, enough of a difference compared to the recent deluge of arctic air to seem like a heat wave.

An El Nino Watch that the NWS issued in June of last year is still just that, a watch, and most recent indicators are that the chances of El Nino forming have gone down substantially in the past several weeks. In fact, says the Climate Prediction Center, even if there was a reversal of weather patterns and El Nino was to form, it would not influence North Dakota’s weather until late spring and any influence would likely be too minimal to notice.

El Nino is triggered by a rise in Pacific Ocean temperatures along an area of the equator. It seemed inevitable that thunderstorms necessary to couple warm ocean temperatures with the atmosphere would develop in the past few months but that has not been the case.

“That just hasn’t happened. There’s been no increase, actually a decrease in thunderstorms,” said Simosko. “Our warm December that got many thinking about El Nino was really due to other factors.”

Earlier El Nino outlooks contained as much as a 90 percent chance of El Nino development but that percentage has dropped considerably. The CPC in January rated the change of El Nino formation at 65 percent. Since then conditions necessary for an El Nino have decreased even further.

“Nobody would have predicted we would not have been in an El Nino by now,” said Simosko.

The CPC’s monthly El Nino update will be issued next Thursday and will likely reflect “neutral” conditions and, quite possibly, remove the El Nino Watch from their outlook.