A high percentage of North Dakota recorded below average precipitation in January 2015 (Figure 1). The one notable exception was in south central North Dakota. That part of the state recorded two precipitation events, on January 21 and 25, that missed other parts of North Dakota. Using data from the Cooperative Network and CoCoRaHS, the statewide average precipitation for the month was 0.47 inches in comparison to the January average of 0.49 inches. Because much of eastern North Dakota has recorded five straight months with below average precipitation, the U.S. Drought Monitor now lists 68% of North Dakota in either Abnormally Dry or Moderate Drought conditions with 9.5% of the state in the Moderate Drought category.
For the second straight month temperatures finished above average over all of North Dakota (Figure 2). The NDAWN (North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network) average temperature was 15.1 degrees which is 4.6 degrees above average. That would rank January 2015 in the Top 20 warmest Januaries of record. One of the factors attributing to the warmth during the month was the lack of snow cover. That absence of snow cover and a favorable west wind let to some record high temperatures during the month. For example on January 27 Bismarck and Williston both broke record maximums with highs of 53°. That same day Dickinson reached 62° shattering the old record of 51° set in 2008.
Although all the long-term climate locations in North Dakota have recorded below average snow fall this winter, Fargo more than any other location has been void of snow this season (Figure 3). The highest total from a single event in Fargo has been 0.9 inches, meaning, the largest city in the state of North Dakota has yet to record a one inch snow event this season. During the winter of 1943-1944 the first one inch snow event did not occur until January 27 which until this year was the latest occurrence for such an event in the city. Through January 31, only 7.5 inches of snow was reported which is the 9th lowest total through that date on record and 23.5 inches below average.