Snowiest Winter Ever Recorded in North Dakota

A snowmobiler negotiates the streets of Crosby, North Dakota. Photograph courtesy of the Crosby Journal.

A snowmobiler negotiates the streets of Crosby, North Dakota. Photograph courtesy of the Crosby Journal.



By Harold Ambler

Snow, wind, and cold have assaulted North Dakota yet again in the past 24 hours. In Bismarck Friday morning the temperature was 12 below zero with a new inch or two of snow expected following Thursday’s more significant storm.

Snow in the southern part of the state was bad enough Thursday that snowplow operators were pulling off the road, blinded by the whiteout conditions. A foot of snow was common in the heaviest band. 

The National Weather Service predicts a high temperature of 3 degrees Fahrenheit Friday in Bismarck, as well as additional snow. As of Thursday, three-quarters of the state’s roads were still snow-covered, in whole or in part, from the storm that just ended the day before.

Howling winds and copious snow have combined to leave austere, menacing scenes like this in Cavalier County, North Dakota. Photograph by the ND Department of Emergency Services.

Howling winds and copious snow have combined to leave austere scenes like this in Cavalier County, North Dakota. Photograph courtesy of the ND Department of Emergency Services.

More than once during the winter, the Department of Transportation has issued a no-travel advisory, most recently on February 10.

Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Emergency Services, said that the winter got off to a bad start on November 4. “That first storm was definitely a blizzard with blowing and drifting snow,” she said.  Since then, according to Fong, several counties have seen more than 400 percent of normal snowfall. 

December was a record breaker for Bismarck, as it was at many other locations around the state. In Bismarck, the total for the month was 33.3 inches, the greatest amount ever received in a single month.

Those were early days, it turned out. Frequent storms, followed by howling northwest winds and record-breaking cold, have made it a winter to remember. On January 15, the morning low at the Bismarck airport was 44 below zero, the coldest ever for the date, and one degree shy of the all-time coldest reading for a state known to be less than balmy.

By the end of January, many counties had more than 400 percent of normal snow totals on the ground, and Governor John Hoeven had declared a state of emergency. 

“There has been a repeated pattern,” said Fong,  “where the county will come and plow a road and then two days later, without any additional snow, the road becomes impassable again.” Relatively speaking, the people in Bismarck have gotten off light. Divide County, in the state’s northwest corner, has received 500 percent of normal snowfall. 

Steve Andrist, who has lived most of his life in Divide county and is the publisher of the weekly Crosby Journal, commended the street department. “There has never been more than a day or a day and a half where the roads were

Roads that were cleared once, and twice, have needed to be cleared a third time in various locations throughout the state. Photograph by the Department of Emergency Services.

Roads that were cleared once, and twice, have needed to be cleared a third time in various locations throughout the state. Photograph courtesy of the ND Department of Emergency Services.

 impassable,” he said. 

After a lifetime living so near the Canadian border, did the last few months really amount to anything? “This winter got my attention,” he said. “The thing that’s different about this one is the volume of snow. It’s so much more than we anticipated. As far as snow and moving it, and moving it again, and having to move it again a third time, this has been very unusual.” 

On February 19, the governor asked the federal government to provide emergency assistance for snow removal. “We’ve got roads that aren’t being plowed,” Fong said, “just because the funds aren’t available to do it.”

Although the spring melt is weeks away, Fong said that flooding is already a concern. “We don’t know where, and we don’t know when, but we’re keeping our eyes on it.”

About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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4 Responses to Snowiest Winter Ever Recorded in North Dakota

  1. Bill Humiston says:

    As I write this (March 10, 2009), northwest Minnesota is being bombarded by a blizzard on a line extending from Mayville, ND all the way up to Baudette, MN. Projections for total accumulation across this area for the past two days will be around 6-12 inches of new snow. To me, this is hardly evidence of global warming or even climate change. Seems to me that the climate up here is pretty stable, in fact.

    In Crookston, MN (where I live), not any people take global warming (or, the more fashionable and evasive term, “climate change”) very seriously. But up here, it’s expected to be cold and snowy. As I understand it, though, the entire nation has been subjected to one of the coldest and stormiest winters on record, not only for this year, but for the past two years. And this, in a time when political cartoons feature people sweltering in Alaska under palm trees.

    Research has been done on news headlines regarding global warming/cooling and a fascinating trend has been found: Alarms are raised on warming trends in global climate for about 10-20 years, followed by alarms for cooling trends in global climate for the next 10-20 years. Several political commentators (Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, to name two) tried it themselves with a simple Lexis/Nexis search and came up with these results. Why can’t – or won’t – the major news outlets do the same? After all, it’s their job, right? (I myself remember the alarm about global cooling in the 1970s, complete with pictures of icebergs inundating New York City in major magazines.)

    Earth experiences natural cycles of warming/cooling trends caused by natural agents such as volcanic activity and solar factors (one belch of a volcano puts out more so-called greenhouse gasses than all the factories in the world in any given year.) But it’s fascinating to me that no one in the major news media carry these kinds of stories, let alone take them seriously.

    “Consensus” in science has been reached, they tell us, except in real science, consensus means nothing. Scientific conclusions are reached by scientific methodology, not the majority opinion. It is or it isn’t happening, and laboratories can show it to everyone’s satisfaction. Unfortunately, science is highly politicized these days (just ask any scientist who takes Intelligent Design theory seriously), and well-done science critical of current dogma is dismissed and belittled, its scientists and proponents ostracized and ridiculed. Is THAT scientific debate and research? No – it’s nothing more than bullying and silencing of any dissent.

    I’m no scientist, but I know a scam when I see one (I’ve been taken by a few of them in my time). I know bullies when I see them (I’ve been beat up by a few in my time). Climate Change is both a scam and a haven for bullies and con artists. It’s all about power and the accumulation of power – and I don’t mean electric.

  2. Phil Lowe says:

    Carbon credits are the global warming religion’s equivalent of Papal Indulgences. To extend that metaphor, you, Mr. Ambler, are this generation’s Martin Luther. Further, your article on Huffington Post was nothing less than a return to the “Wittenburg Door”, where – like Luther – you nailed your 95 theses for all to see, putting the “Church of Rome” (or, in this case, the “Church of Doom”) on notice for all to see.

    And, like Luther, you have been vilified and face excommunication for your bold stand for the truth. The parallels of the AGW (anthropogenic global warming) “religion” to pre-Reformation Roman Catholicism cannot be overstated. Both believe(d) they had absolute truth on their side. Both believe(d) theirs was a “righteous” position and was above question. And yet both were (and are) corrupt to the core, interested more in money than morality. Such is one of the many lessons Papal Indulgences teach.

    Interestingly enough, if you read statements coming from scientists and bloggers who presume to know more about AGW than anyone else, you can see the unscientific and self-contradictory assertions they make without ever having to read those pesky “denier” blogs!

    But such analysis is perhaps better left for another post. Thank you, Mr. Ambler, for adding your voice to this new “reformation” of science sans politics.

  3. Phil Lowe says:

    In my previous post, I alluded to self-contradictory statements coming from pro-AGW sites on the web (where – it seems – most people get their information on this tripe.)

    It’s long been held by AGW skeptics that the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was at least as warm as today’s climate with none of the so-called human-generated CO2 to drive it. Several sites, in attempting to refute the importance the MWP plays in our understanding of global climate cycles, have responded by dismissing the MWP as irrelevant, calling it, among other things, “regional warming.” Here are two such quotes:

    “There is no good evidence that the MWP was a globally warm period
    comparable to today. Regionally, there may have been places that exhibited
    notable warmth — Europe, for example — but all global proxy reconstructions
    agree it is warmer now, and the temperature is rising faster now, than at any
    time in the last one or even two thousand years.”

    Note the phrase, “Regionally, there may have been places that exhibited
    notable warmth — Europe, for example…”

    In other words, don’t confuse regional warming with global warming. This position is born out on another pro-AGW site, as follows:

    “Claims that global average temperatures during Medieval times were warmer than present-day are based on a number of false premises that a) confuse past evidence of drought/precipitation with temperature evidence, b) fail to disinguish [sic] regional from global-scale temperature variations…”

    Note the phrase, ”

    “fail to disinguish [sic] regional from global-scale temperature variations…”

    Again, the MWP is viewed by pro-AGW supporters as little more than “regional” weather patterns.

    But then, another pro-AGW site writes this:

    The Arctic: Losing Its Cool

    “The Arctic is warming up faster than any other region. Because it plays a vital role in cooling the rest of the globe, the effects of this warming will be felt worldwide, not
    just on remote tundra.”

    “What this means for the rest of us”

    “While the Arctic melt has profound effects on the region’s people and ecosystems, it
    also spells trouble for the rest of the world. For instance, the changes to the ocean’s
    circulation system would mean that though some places will get much warmer, other
    places, such as Europe, which won’t get the warmth from the Gulf Stream, will get
    much cooler.”

    Note the phrase, “changes to the ocean’s circulation system would mean that though some places will get much warmer, other places, such as Europe, which won’t get the warmth from the Gulf Stream, will get much cooler.”

    In other words, regional climate variations are (according to this site) precisely what we should expect to see in a time of increased global warming.

    So regional temperature variations are, on the one hand, used to dismiss the relevance of the global nature of the MWP, yet, on the other hand, are an important indicator that we’re causing the global warming we see today!

    Put another way, regional variations are used to disprove the global warming we’ve seen in the past and yet are also used to prove the alleged global warming we see in the present.

    There is one more quote I’ll cite from the “Arctic Losing Its Cool” column, linked above.

    “Nineteenth-century explorer Fridtjof Nansen called the Arctic ‘nature’s great ice temple,’ a place teeming with roaming polar bears and a forbidding landscape frozen since ‘the earliest dawn of time.'”

    I can’t fault Nansen for being smitten with the stark beauty of the Arctic, but his statement is romantic fantasy, not scientific fact. Yet this is precisely the kind of 19th century romanticism upon which the AGW crowd draws it’s conclusions that “something must be done!”

    In closing, here is just one of many links discussing fossilized dinosaurs found in the arctic, and what the climate was like back then.

    Arctic dinosaurs raise questions
    Science News , August 31, 1985 by Jennie Dusheck

    The 65-million-year-old bones of at least three dinosaur species and two prehistoric reptiles have been recovered from a site in the Alaskan tundra by a team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

    Although the magnetic orientation of rock in the area indicates that the site, near Prudhoe Bay, was at least as far north when the dinosaurs lived as it is today (70[deg.] N latitude, fossils and other geologic evidence suggest that the site was a coastal swamp with a subtropical to temperate climate. Temperature rarely, if ever, dropped below freezing, says William Clemens, the Berkeley paleontologist who led the expedition. Such a mild climate was possible in spite of annual periods of darkness because the earth’s climate was much more “equable” — or uniform — in those days, explains Fairbanks paleontologist Carol Allison.

    Gee, I wonder how many of our coal-fired plants were responsible for turning the tundra subtropical back then.

  4. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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