Minnesota rates a warmer, drier winter in official forecast

Winter forecast maps from NOAA show below-average precipitation for much of Minnesota (left) and above-average temperatures (right).

Along with that blast of bitter wind, Thursday brought an update to the National Weather Service outlook for our winter ahead.

Above-normal temperatures are predicted for the next 90 days across Minnesota, thanks to persisting, strong El Niño conditions, as well as for the rest of the United States above the 40th parallel, which is roughly the latitude of Indianapolis (or more precisely, its northern suburb Carmel).

And while the precipitation patterns associated with El Niño are expected to bring above-average precipitation for most of the country, the northern two-thirds of Minnesota and much of the Great Lakes region are among the places where the odds are for below-average precipitation.

The particulars depend, to a great extent, on when the current El Nino system — the strongest ever observed — begins to weaken and how rapidly it fades. According to the weather service, which considers winter to be the DJF months of December, January and February:

The ongoing El Niño event is likely to peak in strength during the northern hemisphere winter 2015-16, with a transition to [non-Niño conditions] expected during the late spring or early summer  2016.  

… The odds of above-normal  temperatures are highest across the Pacific Northwest and upper Great Lakes, where probabilities of above-normal temperatures exceed 60 percent. Increased  chances for below-normal temperatures during DJF are forecast across much of  Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico.

While the forecast for below-average winter precipitation is good news for those of us who don’t care to shovel snow – though not for others who want to ski and snowshoe on it – the above-average outlook is surely welcome in those portions of the country where drought has been severe and persistent:

The DJF 2015-16 precipitation outlook indicates enhanced probabilities of above-median precipitation amounts for California, the Southwest, the Central and southern Great Plains, the lower Mississippi valley, and from the southeast  north to southern New England. The probabilities are highest for above-median  precipitation across Southern California, the desert Southwest, West Texas, and  Florida.

Below-median precipitation amounts are most likely for parts of the Pacific Northwest, Northern Rockies, and Great Lakes.

The service predicts neither total snowfall amounts nor a finer-resolution forecast of which portions of the season are likely to be snowiest.

Some help for California

As of Thursday, the U.S. Drought Monitor map showed most of Minnesota entirely out of drought conditions, with small pockets of slight drought or moderate drought in the extreme southeast and in a band stretching southwest from Red Lake to the borders with North and South Dakota.

U.S. Drought Monitor
Nost of Minnesota is free of drought conditions, with pockets of slight to moderate drought persisting in two regions

The service is predicting some drought relief for hard-hit California, but not before the end of January and possibly later. Complete recovery is unlikely; that would require a doubling of normal winter rainfall.

The service bases its forecast on several different models, which aren’t in complete alignment for all parts of the U.S. this winter. This led to some revisions in Thursday’s outlook from the first seasonal outlook issued in October, especially for the southeastern U.S., where the odds of below-normal temperatures were lowered a bit.

But for Minnesota and its neighbors, the service says, “all temperature tools continue to strongly favor non-normal [warmer] temperatures across the northern half of the continental U.S. through the early spring.”

What the almanacs say

Of course, not everybody uses the same tools. The Farmer’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac beg to differ with the weather service. Both use venerable, proprietary prediction methodology.

For our region the Old Farmer’s Almanac (the one founded in 1792 and published from New Hampshire) says:

Winter will be much colder than normal, on average, with above-normal precipitation. Snowfall will be near normal in most of the region but above normal in the east. Very cold weather will predominate from late December through early February, with the snowiest periods in late November, late January, and mid-March.

Its free two-month forecast:

NOVEMBER 2015: temperature 30° (1° above avg.); precipitation 3″ (1″ above avg.); Nov 1-4: Rainy periods, mild; Nov 5-13: Snow showers; cold, then mild; Nov 14-18: Snow, then flurries, cold; Nov 19-23: Snow, then flurries, cold; Nov 24-25: Rain and snow, mild; Nov 26-30: Snowstorm, then flurries, cold.

DECEMBER 2015: temperature 15.5° (1° above avg. east, 2° below west); precipitation 1.5″ (0.5″ above avg.); Dec 1-8: Snow showers, cold; Dec 9-14: Snow showers; mild, then cold; Dec 15-22: Lake snows east, flurries west; cold; Dec 23-26: Snow showers, mild; Dec 27-31: Lake snows east, flurries west; very cold.

The Farmers Alamanc (founded 1818, published from Maine), doesn’t give its forecasts away but featured its winter outlook in announcing this year’s edition of the annual. Excerpts:

“The winter of 2015–2016 is looking like a repeat of last winter, at least in terms of temperatures,” reveals Caleb Weatherbee, the Farmers’ Almanac’s weather prognosticator. “Cold conditions are likely to affect the Atlantic Seaboard, the eastern portions of the Great Lakes, the lower peninsula of Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, most of the Tennessee and Mississippi Valley, as well as much of the Gulf Coast.”

Winter will once again split the country in half, with the eastern sections of the country on tap for frigidly cold conditions, and the other half predicted to experience milder to more normal winter conditions.

Much of the Great Plains, Great Lakes, New England, and parts of the Ohio Valley will see snow, snow and more snow.

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 11/20/2015 - 09:46 am.

    I will take Farmers Almanac over the scientists. After 50 yrs of following the farmers Almanac they are as correct as the long range forecasters about 50/50 for both.

  2. Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/20/2015 - 10:18 am.

    Caleb Weatherbee

    Is that his real name, or is that the name that the Farmers Almanac bylaws require him to assume in order to serve as its weather prognosticator?

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/20/2015 - 10:52 am.

    I don’t mind offending

    …lovers of “old-time” Minnesota winters. I’m fine with a warmer, drier winter, no matter who’s doing the predicting. In that regard, my guess – and it’s only that – is that the almanacs rely on a lot more science than they’d like us to believe.

  4. Submitted by Dennis Litfin on 11/20/2015 - 10:12 pm.

    I don’t mind

    the warmer Winter, but I do want more moisture as we in No. Central Mn. have been in a moisture drought for a good number of years. The lake I am on is down 3 feet over the past 7 – 9 years.

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