Since the first fairly widespread and measurable snowfall occurred across parts of the region Sunday, the question comes up, was this unusual? Based on the climatological record available measurable snow is not at all uncommon in late October. In fact, snow has fallen in late September as well as early October in our area. Typically snow that falls this early in the season melts off and may even be followed by a period of much milder weather.
Notable early season snows include the October 2 1950 snowstorm, October 7 and 8 snowstorm of 1985 and October 24 2001.
Below is a table of climatologically average first one inch snow fall based on the 1940 to 2007 period of record. While this is not a comprehensive list it is designed to give an idea as to when the earliest 1 inch of snow has fallen. Due to the variability of weather at any given location, the first inch of snow can be more than two months later.
NORTH DAKOTA SNOW/YR AVG 1IN MINNESOTA SNOW/YR AVG 1IN
CAVALIER 7NW SEP 26/1972 NOV 10 AGASSIZ WLR OCT 14/1959 NOV 11
EDMORE 1NW SEP 26/1972 NOV 10 BAUDETTE SEP 26/1941 NOV 5
FARGO HECTOR FLD OCT 2/1950 NOV 15 CROOKSTON OCT 5/1974 NOV 13
FORMAN 5SW OCT 2/1950 NOV 24 DETROIT LAKES SEP 26/1942 NOV 17
GRAND FORKS NWS OCT 2/1950 NOV 12 FERGUS FALLS OCT 9/1970 NOV 17
HANSBORO 4NNE SEP 11/1989 NOV 3 OTTERTAIL OCT 2/1950 NOV 7
LEEDS SEP 22/1995 NOV 11 RED LAKE OCT 1/1974 NOV 17
LISBON SEP 22/1942 NOV 20 THORHULT OCT 2/1950 NOV 2
PETERSBURG OCT 2/1950 NOV 3 WADENA 3S SEP 25/1942 NOV 10
VALLEY CITY 3NNW OCT 2/1950 NOV 11 ITASCA ST PK OCT 7/1970 NOV 5
Please note that some stations had a few missing years’ data.
Looking at the above table it is apparent that the first inch of snow in the northern plains can occur quite early. Trace snow amounts have been noted earlier than the dates listed above. Also, there is no correlation between early season snowfalls and overall winter precipitation. In fact, several of the winter seasons with early accumulating snows ended up with below normal seasonal snowfall totals.
For additional information contact the Grand Forks National Weather Service at 701.772.0720 or visit our web site at