January 23, 2009

Snow, bitter cold usher in 2009

Snow, bitter cold usher in 2009
With a temperature swing of 81 degrees in less than a week, weather continues to dominate the news headlines in western North Dakota as January 2009 heads into the history books.
If heavy snow in a traditionally dry month wasn’t enough, a polar air mass enveloped western North Dakota late last week, plummeting temperatures to their lowest point in recent memory.
Sometime in the evening of Jan. 14, the temperature dropped to 40 below zero in most locations across northwestern North Dakota and stayed there for up to 15 hours, finally rising to a frigid 30 below zero by 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 15.
Other spots actually recorded colder temperatures and Bismarck, at 44 below zero, was the second coldest recorded temperature in the history of the capital city, which dates back to 1872. The official temperature in Garrison was 47 below zero, while a farmer near Wilton had a reading of 53 below zero.
For Mountrail County communities, the Thursday morning temperature was more stable, however, not any less dangerous. Numerous locations in New Town recorded 40 below zero, while others reported temperatures from 36 to 38 below zero.
Likewise in Parshall. The general temperature around town was 40 below, however, low-lying areas where cold air sinks, some thermometers hit 43 below zero.
Ironically, while the temperature dropped to a 50-year low here in the northwest, there was no wind associated with the blistering cold. One could have lit a match outside and it would have burned straight up in the air. Few, if any clouds were associated with this weather pattern.
Harlyn Wetzel, a meterologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said a polar air mass over Alaska drifted south with the help of a jet stream that dipped as far south as the Texas pandandle. That allowed the Alaska air to infiltrate North Dakota and parts of Montana.
Just a week prior to western North Dakota dropping to 40 below zero, Fairbanks, Alaska, on Jan. 8, recorded an overnight low of 50 below zero and a daytime high of 30 below. Other points north of Fairbanks recorded even colder extremes.
But, as pointed out, the cold air mass quickly moved out, giving way to more moderate temperatures. Monday’s high in New Town was 34 degrees above and Tuesday’s high hit 38 degrees.

The Weather Network