The state's climate is continental, meaning there are large fluctuations in temperature on a daily basis and in the seasons. Cold air from the Arctic region enters the state during winter, and warm air from the Pacific Ocean comes in during the summer months.
Snow is often formed when ice crystals form in the clouds and are allowed to settle on the ground, causing it to become covered in snow. Sometimes this can be brief, but when snow accumulates on highways and other surfaces, it can cause serious problems for drivers.
During winter, snowfall can reach up to five feet in some areas of the state. The heavy accumulations can cause blizzards and a number of other hazardous weather conditions.
The earliest recorded snowfall in North Dakota was in February 1918, when the temperature reached a record low of 60 degrees below zero at Parshall, according to the National Weather Service. Other notable records include a chinook in January 1935, which brought mild temperatures for a short period of time, and a March 1966 blizzard that caused widespread damage.
First snowfall is a beautiful sight in fall, but they usually happen much closer to the beginning of winter, rather than as a part of the annual cycle. Most areas in North Dakota receive their first snow in October, although some parts of the state see their first snow in November.
The latest recorded snowfall in North Dakota was a blizzard that hit the city of Minot on December 16-17, 2018, and was reported to have broken the town's record with a total of 36 inches. However, the National Weather Service said the storm's snowfall total won't qualify as the official town record because it didn't occur at the city's climate site.