NOAA winter outlook: Cold and snowy winter favored for Minnesota

La Niña event favors a rigorous winter for Minnesota.

Tropical Pacific SST departures in September 2020
Tropical Pacific SST departures in September 2020
NOAA

All signs point to a potentially rigorous winter ahead for Minnesota.

The strongest indicator of what winter will be like in Minnesota is the wintertime phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

The ENSO pattern this winter is trending strongly into a La Niña phase. La Niña is a pool of colder than average water in the tropical Pacific that statistically favors a colder and snowier than average winter in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest.

Typical La Nina winter pattern
Typical La Nina winter pattern
NOAA

I wrote in early September that the winter outlook favors a colder, snowier winter this year. Thursday NOAA released their annual winter outlook. It confirms the patterns many of us meteorologists have been watching as cooler waters develop in the tropical Pacific Ocean this season.

Tropical Pacific SST departures from average
Tropical Pacific SST departures from average
NOAA

NOAA’s winter temperature outlook favors colder than average temperatures across the northern tier of states from Washington to northwest Minnesota this winter. The outlook favors equal chances for above and below-average temperatures overall for Duluth, the Twin Cities, and the eastern half of Minnesota. Snowbirds will likely bask in warmer than average temperatures this winter across the southern U.S.

Winter temperature outlook
Winter temperature outlook
NOAA

NOAA also favors a wetter than average pattern across the northern U.S., with dry weather favored across the southern U.S.

Winter precipitation outlook
Winter precipitation outlook
NOAA

How much snow?

If winter snowfall trends above average this winter, Minnesota can expect to be digging out from a higher than usual number of plowable snowfall events.

The 30-year annual average for snowfall in the Twin Cities is about 54 inches. It’s closer to 86 inches in Duluth and exceeds 90 inches along the North Shore ridges. Average annual snowfall runs closer to 40 inches in much of southwest Minnesota.

30-year average annual snowfall in Minnesota
30-year average annual snowfall in Minnesota
Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group

Climate change has boosted the average winter temperatures in Minnesota between 3 and 5 degrees overall since 1970. But since temperatures still run below freezing in Minnesota most of the winter, that’s still plenty cold enough for snow.

All signs point to a cold and snowy winter across Minnesota this season.

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