Northland winter forecast: Colder than normalThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a 2011-2012 winter outlook today that calls for a better-than-average chance that temperatures will be colder than normal across much of the northern U.S.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The nation’s top forecasters are predicting a colder-than-normal winter across the Northland.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a 2011-2012 winter outlook today that calls for a better-than-average chance that temperatures will be colder than normal across much of the northern U.S. — from the Pacific Northwest across the Northland and through the Great Lakes — from December through February.
Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota are in the bull’s-eye of the area with the highest chance of colder-than-normal weather.
That could be a brisk slap for the Northland, which has seen temperatures well above normal since July, including a whopping 8 degrees warmer than the average temperature so far in October.
The NOAA forecast also calls for increased odds for a snowier winter across northern states, especially in the northern Rockies but also stretching across the Dakotas into Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.
That would be good news for drought-stricken Northeastern Minnesota —lakes and rivers are unusually low — but bad news for the Dakotas, which already have high lake, river and groundwater levels and where more snow could mean more flooding next spring.
Much of the middle of the nation is expected to see close to a normal winter while Texas and the southern plains are predicted to continue in a hot, dry pattern, continuing the worst one-year drought in recorded history in that area.
“The evolving La Niña will shape this winter,” Mike Halpert, deputy director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said. “There is a wild card, though. The erratic Arctic Oscillation can generate strong shifts in the climate patterns that could overwhelm or amplify La Niña’s typical impacts.”
In Duluth, National Weather Service forecasters note that La Niña typically has a less-defined impact on the local winter weather than its warm Pacific cousin, El Niño, which consistently brings mild temperatures and below-normal snowfall to the region.
Recent La Niñas have tended to bring near-normal temperatures but slightly-above-normal snowfall to Duluth.
“La Niñas have been all across the board for us. But we are just one single point across a huge geographic area,” Carol Christenson, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Duluth, said. “We have the lake (Superior) that tends to mitigate other factors, and that makes it harder to model from a national perspective.”
“It’s just an educated guess based on models,” she said, “which is what we do for seven days out, and that’s hard enough.”
The NOAA forecast backs up a prediction earlier this month by AccuWeather.com, which predicted a “brutally cold and snowy” winter for much of the upper Midwest with a jetstream that sets up to repeatedly pull cold arctic air into the Midwest.
“This buildup of snow cover across the Midwest and Great Lakes could act to prolong the colder-than-normal weather beyond February and into early spring,” according to the AccuWeather prediction.
This seasonal outlook does not project where and when snowstorms may hit or provide total seasonal snowfall accumulations. Snow forecasts are dependent upon winter storms, which generally are not predictable more than a week in advance.