Early Snows Not Unheard Of

When is the first measurable snowfall for the Red River Valley and Lakes Region? With the threat for some snow across the Valley and Lakes Region this week, the question about early season snowfalls has been raised. Based on the climatological record available, measurable snow is not at all uncommon in early October. In fact, a glance through the data show that measurable snows have occurred in September.Typically, snow that falls early in the season melts off and may even be followed by a period of much milder weather.

Notable early season snows in the Red River Valley and Devils Lake Basin include the October 2 1950 snowstorm and the October 7 and 8 snowstorm of 1985. Western North Dakota has seen heavy snows in mid to late September.

Below is a table of the earliest one inch observed snow fall based on the 1940 to 2010 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 from year to year and between any given location, the first inch of snow can be more than two months later than a neighboring site. The average first inch snowfall is based on the 1981 to 2010 climatology. Please note that by "measurable" snow we are speaking of 1 inch or more having been reported at the official observation location.

                   EARLIEST                           EARLIEST
CAVALIER 7NW     SEP 26/1972 NOV 3    AGASSIZ WLR    OCT 14/1959 NOV  7
EDMORE 1NW       SEP 26/1972 OCT 30   BAUDETTE       SEP 26/1941 NOV  1
FARGO HECTOR FLD OCT  2/1950 NOV 11   CROOKSTON      OCT  5/1974 NOV 11
FORMAN 5SW       OCT  2/1950 NOV 16   DETROIT LAKES  SEP 26/1942 NOV 10
GRAND FORKS NWS  OCT  2/1950 NOV 15   FERGUS FALLS   OCT  9/1970 NOV 15**
HANSBORO 4NNE    SEP 11/1989 OCT 27   OTTERTAIL      OCT  2/1950 NOV  7
LEEDS            SEP 22/1995 NOV 3**  RED LAKE FALLS OCT  1/1974 NOV  8
LISBON           SEP 22/1942 NOV 13** THORHULT       OCT  2/1950 OCT 31
PETERSBURG       OCT  2/1950 OCT 28   WADENA 3S      SEP 25/1942 NOV 11
VALLEY CITY 3NNW OCT  2/1950 NOV 14   ITASCA ST PK   OCT  7/1970 NOV  9

**Indicates a few missing years of 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 NWS at 701.772.0720

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