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WeatherTalk: Why is it so warm out west?

Mild weather in the western High Plains is related to the slope of the land.

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FARGO - Sunday, as the temperature struggled to rise above zero in Fargo and Grand Forks, it rained in Bismarck as the temperature reached 40 degrees.

Farther west, it was in the 50s across southwestern North Dakota and western South Dakota. Astute observers of Northern Plains weather recognized this pattern as something they've seen before. These intrusions of mild weather into the western High Plains happen are related to the southwest to northeast slope of the land.

Any wind from the west, southwest, and south is blowing downhill from the Rockies to the Missouri River. As the air drops in elevation, it's pressure increases, causing this air to warm by the physical act of compression. The change is pronounced when the air is dry. As the slope of the land flattens out over the eastern Dakotas and Minnesota, this warming effect goes away.

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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