La Niña, o La Nada?

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Twenty years ago, Fargo recorded one of its worst winters on record.

The average snowfall for the area we live in is 50 inches; however, being an average, this number has been skewed by harsh winters where we have received more than average snowfall.

In 1996-97, we recorded 117 inches.

There are three main weather patterns that can cause fluctuation in our North Dakota winter weather.

El Nino, La Nada and La Nina will all cause a shift in temperature and weather in the Pacific Ocean.

Last year, the weather pattern was considered to be El Nino. El Nino refers to the warming of the equatorial Pacific. This warmth that arises will change wind patterns in the surrounding areas, which will in turn affect the weather that moves into the central United States.

Last winter in North Dakota was warmer than average.

As the wind and the warmth faded away last spring, El Nino was diffused. In June, climatologists forecasted that the upcoming year would bring in La Nina.

La Nina is the cooling of the equatorial Pacific, and La Nada occurs when no abnormal weather pattern is predicted.

Daryl Ritchison, interim director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network and a meteorologist by trade, predicted, “Although, right now we are currently at the borderline at what a La Nina would be,” he wouldn’t, “forecast (it) to get to that level.”

It is more likely that La Nada would occur this year, Ritchison said.

“The winter may finish very close to that average, but it’s going to feel like a tough winter because, by my standards, we haven’t really experienced winter in the last two winters,” Ritchison said.

When asked if he had a prediction for the snowfall for the upcoming season, he said, “The reality is that none of us know. If we end up around the 35-50 inch mark, we would be right about average”

In the last two years, the amount of snowfall combined in some areas were less than what our projected averages are.

Most importantly, Ritchison said, “From a historical perspective it’s just where we live; most of North Dakotas’s winters are pretty tough.”

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