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A Cold and Snowy April in the Central U.S.

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:42 PM GMT on April 24, 2013

A Cold and Snowy April in the Central U.S.

Last night (April 24th) the temperature fell to 20°F in Amarillo, Texas, the coldest reading so late in the season on record for the site. Snow in the upper Midwest and Plains has broken all-time monthly records at Duluth, Minnesota and Rapid City, South Dakota. It has been a wild month weather-wise for the central U.S. with numerous extremes for cold, snow, and precipitation having been set.

Crazy temperature swings in Amarillo, Texas

Temperature-wise Amarillo makes a case in point. It’s low of 20°F this morning smashed the previous coldest-so-late-in-the-season record of 23° set on April 30, 1907. The 20°F reading beat the former daily low record of 32°F set in 1958 by a whopping 12°F. Even more remarkable was the high temperature of 35°F on Tuesday. This was colder than Fairbanks, Alaska by 13°F. Furthermore, a trace of snow and freezing drizzle was observed early in the morning around 2-3 a.m., this just hours after it was 89°F at the 4 p.m. observation the day before (April 22nd). The hourly METARS are quite impressive:

Date/Time/Wind/Sky/Cloud/Temperature/Dew Point/6-hour temps/Humidity/Wind Chill/Heat Index/Barometer

Hourly METARS for Amarillo, Texas from 3 p.m. April 22 to 9 a.m. on April 23. Note the 21°F drop of temperature in one hour from 79° to 58° between 8 p.m. and 9.p.m. and the wind speed increase from SW 6 mph to N 37 mph with gusts to 55 mph. It was fronts like this that brought the famous ‘black blizzard’ dust storms to the region during the 1930s drought.

April 14, 1935 was known as ‘Black Sunday’ when a cold front, similar to that which blew through Amarillo Monday evening, created a massive dust storm that roared through the city.

This was the third time this month that Amarillo has seen wild 60°F+ swings in temperature over the course of just hours or a few days. Below is the monthly summary through April 23rd:

The 89° on April 8th was a daily record high and the 20° on April 11th a daily record low. The 88° on April 14th was just 3° shy of another daily record high. Then down to another daily record low of 26° on April 19th. Back up to 89° (this time well short of the 98° daily record) on April 22nd and down to the record lows of 25° yesterday and 20° this morning.

Cold elsewhere

Ironically, the April average temperature for Amarillo has not been too far from normal with 52.0° as of April 23, just 3.3° below normal. This has not been the case in the northern Plains where warm air masses have yet to penetrate. Grand Forks, North Dakota has now gone 46 consecutive days with below normal temperatures (since March 9th) and is averaging 11.8° below normal so far this month. March averaged 11.0° below normal. The same goes for Fargo, North Dakota where the April average is running 12.6° below normal, March was 10.5° below normal, and, like Grand Forks it hasn’t seen an above normal daily temperature since March 9th. Also, Fargo has yet to see a reading above 50° this year, the latest such occurrence on record. Last year by April 23rd there had been 43 days above 50° and 10 days above 70°!

Numerous daily record lows have been set this month, too many to mention. Guy Walton at The Weather Channel has been keeping track of record highs and lows for more than 12 years and, for the week of April 15-21, counted more daily record lows (1,272) than for any other week since he began keeping track of such on January 1, 2000.

Snowy as well

Snowfall this past weekend and early this week from Colorado to Michigan has broken a couple of significant records. Rapid City, South Dakota (downtown site with a POR beginning in 1888) has now measured 39.5” of snowfall so far this April. That is an all-time monthly record for any month of the year (old record was also an April: 38.5” in April 1927).

The 22.4” of snow that fell in Downtown Rapid City on April 9-10 was the city’s 2nd greatest single snowstorm on record. Here, a resident employs a plastic head cover to keep the blowing snow out of his face. Photo by Colleen Brunner for the Butte County Post.

Duluth, Minnesota picked up another 9.1” of snow on Monday-Tuesday and has now accumulated 50.8” this month, another all-time any month snowfall record (previous snowiest month was 48.2” in March 1917). It is also now the 3rd snowiest winter on record for Duluth with 129.4” as of April 23rd: the snowiest season was that of 1995-1996 when 135.4” was measured). Bismarck, North Dakota has had its snowiest April on record with 21.5” so far. The deep snow pack over North Dakota and Minnesota is obviously cause for concern so far as the spring flood of the Red River is concerned. This will, undoubtedly, be a major weather story over the next few weeks. The river is expected to crest at around 37’, major flood level but short of the record 40.84’ crest set in the spring of 2009.

The disastrous flood and fire that decimated downtown Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1997 is still fresh in the minds of most residents. The Red River crested at 39.72’ above flood stage that spring and prompted a major dyke-building effort. The cities along the Red River are much better prepared now to deal with the annual river floods.

KUDOS: Thanks to Eric Fisher, Nick Wiltgen, Christopher Dolce, and Guy Walton at TWC for keeping a close eye on this April’s many extreme weather records.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

Extreme Weather Snow Temperature cold

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

Reader Comments

Commenting on the previous entry--now that Minneapolis has had a record low what major city now has the longest stretch without a record low? Or a record high for that matter?

I'll have to double check but I don't think the "Official" Washington DC
observing site, DCA, has had a record low in the 21'st century.
It is in the city heat island and the location near the Potomac River
also further moderates temperatures especially in winter. Records
mostly come from the older location away from the river which was
also in the (less developed at that time) heat island.

Sites that used to be rural but are now urbanized are probably
almost immune to record lows now. The exception would be extreme cold outbreaks with wind which almost eliminate the heat island. Many locations have had decade and century record lows set in these events rather than the more typical calm clear dry nights when most monthly, seasonal and annual lows are set. For example the Tallahassee 20'th century lowest temperature was set in January 1985 with 30 mph north winds (6F) even though Tallahassee is a stereotypical frost location and radiates very well on calm clear nights.
Perhaps wintertime record high barometric pressures would be a better statistic than record low temps for that season? I dunno. I wonder how well high surface barometric pressures correlate with low temps. Might be an interesting stat at any rate. Also, where might the pressure be a better proxy versus other locations?

George is quite right in pointing out that quite different processes can contribute to low temps.
Bappit that doesn't seem to correlate very well.

The highest pressure at Central Park was 31.08" on February 13, 1981.

The weather that day?  A high of 30 and a low of 18.  Cold but not unduly so.
The minimum pressure records for several cities in the mid-Atlantic need updating on your Extreme Weather site :)
Yeah. It was colder the previous morning, Feb. 12, with the high SW of NYC. (I looked here to find that out.) Had advection with the high building NE. Not what I'm used to in Texas cold snaps for sure! Not exactly a blue norther.
I'm remembering the North Texas saying.

"Taint nothin between here and the North Pole but a barbed wire fence":

Applicable with northers. We talk about cold air damming here in
the mid atlantic region. But what happens east of the Rockies is much
more dramatic!
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