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North Dakota 3-month temperature outlook improves from one month ago

La Nina’s late arrival

Submitted Photo This temperature map released by the Climate Prediction Center on Thursday shows nearly all of North Dakota given an “equal chance” of having season average temperatures February-March. A month ago the outlook called for below normal temps.

North Dakota can now expect a normal temperature pattern through March, rather than the “below normal” outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center one month ago.

One of the reasons why, says the CPC, is an “ongoing lack of snow cover.” But don’t expect a big rise in the thermometer, cautions the CPC, because “probabilities are modest at best from North Dakota to Illinois.”

Nevertheless, the three-month outlook covering Feb.-March reveals little likelihood on a lengthy outbreak of sub-zero weather, something very probable for North Dakota during the winter season where normal temperatures remain colder than just about anywhere else in the U.S.

Winter thus far in the Minot region, and much of the state, has been anything but normal, especially when considering the lack of snow. There doesn’t appear to be any real chance of a receiving a big dump of snow in the near future either. The most recent 8-14 day outlook, ending Feb. 3, calls for a “normal” chance of precipitation and an “above normal” chance that temperatures will exceed long-term norms. The monthly average high temperature for February is just over 25 degrees, the average low 8.6 degrees.

The CPC says La Nina is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere into March. Indicators are that La Nina will subside sometime after April 1. The late arriving La Nina, which results from a cooling of Pacific Ocean temperatures and often leads to colder than usual weather and greater than usual precipitation across North Dakota, has not had much of a noticeable effect on our region to date.

There is a somewhat ominous addition to the CPC’s latest monthly outlook. By the winter of 2021-22, says the CPC, a second La Nina is a possibility. Back-to-back La Nina winters hasn’t happened since the 1950’s. However, even at this early date, the CPC concludes“the only remaining signal is the trend for above normal precipitation over the Northern plains” next winter.

Dry conditions improve slightly

Recent precipitation, however slight be it rain or snow, has proven to be enough to improve dry conditions that have been prevalent over all of North Dakota. The latest Drought Monitor notes that the area of the state rated in “severe” drought was reduced by 14% this past week.

Still, most of the High Plains remains lacking in soil moisture with drought conditions persisting. According to the Drought Monitor, “Exceptions were found in eastern North Dakota, where light precipitation was sufficient to reduce the extent of severe drought conditions.” That assessment was off-set by “small areas of deterioration in the west-central Dakotas.”

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