Hefty snowfall Friday aims at southwestern Minnesota; Twin Cities ride the edge

NOAA snowfall forecast
NOAA snowfall forecast.

Southern Minnesota is basking in our January thaw again Wednesday, but all weather eyes are focused on a potent-looking snow system that will dive southeast across Minnesota Friday.

The major forecast models are in pretty good agreement on Friday’s system. That’s always a little scary for us as meteorologists, but way better than the alternative of model chaos.

The system

This low-pressure system is essentially a strong Alberta clipper. It will dive southeast across Minnesota Friday.

Snowfall should begin in the Red River Valley late Thursday night, then spread southeast through most of Minnesota by Friday morning. Most models suggest the eastern edge of the (lighter) snow zone should ease into the Twin Cities between about 6 and 10 a.m. Friday morning.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System model is pretty typical of forecast model snowfall coverage. Here’s the forecast radar loop between midnight Friday and midnight Saturday.

NOAA GFS model Friday
NOAA GFS model between midnight Friday and midnight Saturday.
NOAA, via tropical tidbits

Drier air to the east of the Twin Cities will limit snowfall rates. It will be interesting and critical to eventual snowfall totals where the edge of that drier air sets up Friday.

Snowfall totals

We’re less than 48 hours from accumulating snow across Minnesota. The forecast model consensus is high that the heaviest snow zone will lay out across western and southern Minnesota.

What’s less confident is how snowfall totals will play out on the eastern edge of the snow zone near the Twin Cities. Most models favor less snow in the eastern Twin Cities and more snow in the west.

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model favors a range of 1 to 3 inches across the greater Twin Cities. In this solution, little snow is forecast just east of the Twin Cities.

This European model output is at a 10-to-1 snowfall ratio. But the snow with this system looks more likely to be around 15-to-1, which would boost totals a bit from this map.

European model (ECMWF) snowfall output
European model (ECMWF) snowfall output by Saturday.
ECMWF via pivotal weather

The American and Canadian Kuchera method models factor in the likely higher snow to water ratio. They suggest hefty snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches-plus in western Minnesota, with more like 1 to 5 inches across the Twin Cities from east to west.

Canadian model snowfall output by Saturday
Canadian model snowfall output by Saturday.
Environment Canada via pivotal weather

Here are some key forecast points as we prepare for snow Friday in Minnesota:

  • Winter storm watches are out for much of western Minnesota Friday

  • Snow begins in Red River Valley late Thursday night

  • Snow spreads across the southwestern half of Minnesota by Friday morning

  • The heaviest snowfall favors western and southwestern Minnesota. (6 to 12 inches)

  • Light snow likely begins in the Twin Cities Friday morning

  • Twin Cities rides the lighter eastern edge of snowfall. (Most likely 1 to 4 inches from east to west)

Stay tuned as we watch for any forecast models changes.

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