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John Wheeler: Deep snow cover in spring is a cold weather feedback loop

The winter snow pack is a deep as it has been in recorded history for so late in the year here in the Fargo area and there is snow all across the region.

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FARGO โ€” Weather is full of feedback loops. Heavy rainfall increases evaporation which helps it rain more. Dry ground on a sunny day makes the air hotter. Snow on the ground makes the air colder. This particular feedback loop is now our problem. The winter snowpack is as deep as it has been in recorded history for so late in the year here in the Fargo area, and there is snow all across the region.

The snow is cold, with an internal temperature around 20 degrees. That, in itself, is keeping the air cold. The snow also reflects a lot of the incoming solar radiation, sending those rays back into space. Once it starts melting, that process will be a significant drag on warming because of all the energy required to turn ice into water. These things will eventually be overcome by the increasing solar radiation of the spring season, but the spring will be late this year because of the late, deep snow.

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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