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John Wheeler: Fall snow is more likely in the western Dakotas

It is not unusual for any location in the Dakotas or Minnesota to get a little snow in October, but big October snows are far more likely out west.

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FARGO — The western parts of North Dakota and South Dakota are considerably less rainy and also less snowy than eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota. The climate is drier out west because there is generally less humidity available for precipitation. However, snow is actually more likely out west very early and very late in the snow season. It is not unusual for any location in the Dakotas or Minnesota to get a little snow in October, but big October snows are far more likely out west. This is because of the slope of the land.

The Dakotas slope upward from east to west. In the fall, it is the northern parts of low-pressure systems where most of the precipitation is produced, and this is the part of the low with easterly or northeasterly wind. As this wind blows uphill, the temperature is lowered by the lower air pressure and density at higher elevations, often turning cold rain into wet snow.

Related Topics: WEATHER
John Wheeler is Chief Meteorologist for WDAY, a position he has had since May of 1985. Wheeler grew up in the South, in Louisiana and Alabama, and cites his family's move to the Midwest as important to developing his fascination with weather and climate. Wheeler lived in Wisconsin and Iowa as a teenager. He attended Iowa State University and achieved a B.S. degree in Meteorology in 1984. Wheeler worked about a year at WOI-TV in central Iowa before moving to Fargo and WDAY..
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