Balmy record Tuesday, tracking heavy snow by Friday

This morning's patchy but dense ground fog is a good metaphor for weather forecasting. Picking out the forecast signal from the background noise requires skill, practice and a little luck.

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Foggy morning in Victoria. Paul Huttner/MPR News.

There's one week left in February, and the season we call meteorological winter. The coldest three months of the year in the northern hemisphere? December, January and February. That's how meteorologists group the months into more easily definable 'seasons' for record keeping purposes.

So far this month temperatures are running 10.2 degrees warmer than average at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That number eases some with colder weather expected this weekend. But February will still finish about 5-6 degrees warmer than average.

Throw in December at +1.2 degrees, and January at +5.3 degrees and you've got a meteorological winter that's going to come in about 4 degrees warmer than average overall in the Twin Cities.

Since Feb. 10, temperatures have been running 15 to 30 degrees warmer than average in the Twin Cities and most of Minnesota. So much for the Old Farmer's Almanac, and those who predicted a colder than average winter in the Upper Midwest.

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Old Farmer's Almanac weather forecast for the Upper Midwest.

Well at least it's "free."

More record warmth today

A strengthening February sun works on a mild air mass today. Temperatures have little trouble soaring toward the 60 degree mark across southern Minnesota once again this afternoon. Day off? Temps in the 70s are just a few hours drive down Interstate 35 near Des Moines, Iowa.

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NOAA

More records will fall today, and tomorrow.

We throw in one more golf-worthy day tomorrow with temps in the upper 50s to near 60 in the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota.

Snow-free zone

It's amazing just how fast the snow is going to gone around Minnesota.You have to drive pretty far north now to find decent snow cover.

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NOAA

Finally February

Our weather maps are finally starting to look like February again. Meteorological winter looks ready to go out with a bang. A late February snow event is still on track for Thursday night and Friday somewhere in southern Minnesota.

I have high confidence in a strong storm that will likely deliver a foot of snow to parts of southern Minnesota. The lower confidence part of the forecast centers around just where the heavy band will lay out.

Right now the smart money seems to lay out the heaviest snow bands in southern Minnesota just south and east of the Twin Cities through Mankato, Albert Lea, Waseca, Northfield, Red Wing and Rochester.

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Twin Cities NWS

Storm track critical

As always, the precise storm track is critical to who gets how much snow. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Forecast System is on the northern end of the forecast envelope, and brings heavier snow bands into the Twin Cities Thursday night and Friday.

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NOAA GFS via tropical tidbits

Highly divergent model snowfall totals

There's still some wide divergence in model snowfall output for the Twin Cities. NOAA's Short Range Ensemble Forecasts (SREF) crank out anywhere from zero, to over a foot of snow. That always helps build forecast confidence. The mean is about 6 inches for MSP.

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NOAA

NOAA's GFS brings a pile, with a foot-plus edging into the south metro.

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NOAA GFS model snowfall output via tropical tidbits.

Canada's GEM model takes the storm further south, with less snow for the metro and a sharp cutoff in the north metro.

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Canadian GEM model snowfall output via tropical tidbits.com

The bottom line? Snow is likely Thursday night and Friday. Precise storm track still in question, but heavy snow band may produce a foot or more in southern Minnesota.

Stay tuned.

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