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Where's spring? Third winter storm in a week hitting Northern U.S.

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:52 PM GMT on April 15, 2013

Are we worthy of spring? That's the question residents of much of northern tier of states must be asking themselves this week. The winter of 2012 - 2013 refuses to give way to spring over the Northern Plains and Great Lakes, where snow will once again rule the skies this third week of April. Although the U.S. had an unusually warm winter during 2012 - 2013, ranking as the 20th warmest since 1895, March and the first half of April have been below average in temperature, with March 2013 ranking as the 43rd coldest March in the 119-year record. Two separate April snowstorms have set all time snowiest-day records at two major cities in the Northern Plains, with the latest record to fall the all-time snowiest day for Bismark, North Dakota. On Sunday, Winter Storm Xerxes walloped Bismark with 17.3" of snow, beating the city's previous all-time snowiest day record of 15.5" on March 3, 1966. Sunday's powerful blizzard brought heavy snow, gusty winds of 30 - 40 mph, and near-zero visibility to much of North Dakota, forcing the closure of the entire 350-mile stretch of I-94 through the state on Sunday and Monday morning. Heavy snow and white-out conditions on I-94 in Minnesota closed an additional portion of the freeway in that state, due to a semitrailer crash. Just last week, Winter Storm Walda brought Rapid City, South Dakota its snowiest day on record on April 9, when 20.0" fell at the airport. The 28.2" of snow during April 2013 is now the second snowiest April at the Rapid City Regional Airport, surpassed only by April 1970 when 30.6" of snow fell.

Figure 1. What a difference a year makes: snow was almost non-existent in the Upper Midwest on April 15 last year, but there is plenty this year. Image credit: NOAA.

Spring a slow-show
The cold weather this spring in the Upper Midwest has not been remarkably intense, but it has been unusually persistent, with few breaks from the colder than average conditions. In Fargo, North Dakota, the warmest day so far this year has been 43°F, and the city appears poised to record its latest 50°F on record. According to the NWS in Fargo, the latest day Fargo has hit 50°F was April 17, 1881. The current forecast calls for the temperature to remain below 50° through at least April 24. In Grand Forks, ND, the warmest it has been this year is a chilly 40°F (on January 10.) Spring has also been a slow-show in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where the 2.3" of snow that fell on Marquette on Sunday brought the seasonal total snowfall over 200"--the first time since the winter of 2007 - 2008 the city has eclipsed that mark. The snow depth in the city is 38", the deepest snow this late in the year since 1980. Marquette's warmest temperature so far this year has been 47°F on March 29. Since Marquette usually records their first 50° reading by March 15, they are a month behind schedule. The latest 50° reading since record keeping began in 1961 was April 26, 1965. The latest forecast calls for the temperature to come close to 50° on Monday, then stay below 50° for the succeeding week, so Marquette may beat its record for latest 50° temperature.

Winter not done with the Upper Midwest yet
Winter isn't done with the region yet--a new slow-moving winter storm called "Yogi" is developing over the Rockies of Northern Colorado. The storm promises to bring up to a foot of snow to Cheyenne, Wyoming, and a swath of 6+ inches to portions Northern Colorado and Nebraska, South Dakota, and Minnesota by Thursday. This storm also has the potential to cause one of the year's largest severe weather outbreaks; NOAA's Storm Prediction Center is already calling for a "Moderate Risk" of severe weather for Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri on Wednesday.

Other interesting wunderblogs
It's also been a persistently cold April in Alaska, as weather historian Christopher C. Burt notes in his latest post.

Wunderblogging meteorologist Lee Grenci has an interesting post on why last week's severe weather outbreak had so few tornadoes, despite the presence of a strong cold front and plenty of moisture and thunderstorms.

Jeff Masters
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Winter Weather Xerxes Yogi

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.