Skip to main content

Have you seen what AccuWeather's winter outlook says about Minnesota? As is always the case, every long-range forecast must be taken with a grain of salt because predicting the weather beyond a couple of weeks loses accuracy very fast. 

That said, long-range forecasting from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has improved substantially in recent decades. Unlike the Farmer Almanacs and the winter outlook from AccuWeather, NOAA's long-range dart shows skill, meaning it’s better than a coin flip.

Weather is sponsored by All Energy Solar: get a free installation quote now

AccuWeather paints a vague picture for most of the country. In fact, the Twin Cities and Minnesota aren't singled out at all in the entire article. It’s much easier to give a vague forecast, like the almanacs, rather than a quantitative forecast, like NOAA. 

What AccuWeather did do was discuss the potential impacts a "triple dip" La Nina, the polar vortex and the Tonga volcanic eruption could have on winter. 

Triple dip La Nina will play a role

One of the big influencers on this year’s winter forecast, and AccuWeather agrees, will be the triple dip La Nina I discussed recently. This is a pretty rare event to have three consecutive winters of La Nina. It's only happened a handful of times so trying to garner any statistical predictability is impossible.

La Nina ever so slightly favors higher odds of cooler than normal conditions for Minnesota but mainly northwest through the Dakotas into western Canada. As far as precipitation goes, it’s pretty much a statistical wash.

If we look at our past two La Nina winters, 2020-2021 was warmer than normal and last year was slightly colder than normal, so the odds are that this year's winter temps being warmer or colder than usual is a coin flip. 

When it comes to snow, the last two winters have been below normal, though not by much. 2018-2019 was our last big snowfall season, finishing more than two feet above normal in the Twin Cities thanks to five snowstorms in February that helped dump a record 39 inches in 28 days. We also had 10 inches of snow in April. 

Snowfall is the most highly variable figure in our winters from month to month and year to year, and therefore the most difficult to predict.

Persistence forecasting?

AccuWeather appears to be forecasting above normal snowfall for northeast Minnesota and northern Wisconsin. Perhaps they’re banking on persistence forecasting. I’ve talked some about persistence forecasting, which is when you keep forecasting the same until the weather pattern changes. 

One such persistence pattern that may pay off again this year is forecasting for early winter. There’s been a marked trend in recent years that our winters seem to get a late start with December being one of the fastest warming months in our climate record. Only four of the past 12 Decembers have been cooler than normal and half (6) were well above normal, so there’s definitely something to pay attention to there.

The polar vortex!

In recent years, the weather starting around mid-January has been very interesting. Something we’re learning more and more about is how the polar vortex is changing with climate change and how to better predict its behavior in winter.

There’s some research to suggest there are more disruptions as we lessen the temperature contrast between the arctic and mid-latitudes, but regardless, when the polar vortex is knocked off the pole, or significantly stretched, it unleashes unusual cold deep into midlatitudes across the north-central U.S., Europe or Asia. 

This tends to happen late January through February, or in spring as the vortex begins its normal decline with increasing sunlight. 

Volcanic impact?

An odd topic the AccuWeather forecasters mention is the major volcanic eruption near Tonga earlier this year. While it’s true it unleashed a huge amount of water vapor deep into the stratosphere, it’s largely unknown what (if any) impact that has in the troposphere, where our weather occurs. It was a rare event without previous measurement and trying to decipher its impacts on winter weather is a wild card. 

What we do know is when a large volcano blows a ton of ash, it has a cooling effect. The most recent example was the Mount Pinatubo eruption in the early 1990s, which had a measurable cooling impact on global temperatures for a couple of years.

The summer of 1993 is one of only two summers (along with 1902) that the Twin Cities failed to reach 90 degrees. 

Pinatubo years

The Tonga volcano spewed extra water vapor into the atmosphere, which actually has a warming effect rather than cooling, so it's a giant mystery as to what that could mean for our winter weather. 

The climate change elephant in the room

The big factor on overall temperature patterns is climate change. Forecasting ups and downs is easier when we look at the trends. Seventy percent of winters since 2000 have been warmer than the historical average. Of course, there are ups and downs in the overall trends.

winter vs avg

One element of climate change is increasing snowfall. 

A warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor and we are seeing more snow because of it, but much of it melts or comes at odd times, like April. And warmer than normal temps can lead to more rain or mixed precipitation instead of snow. 

In conclusion

Your winter guess is almost as good as anyone's, especially this early. We’re just starting to see how the polar vortex will behave as October goes into November and our winter patterns are often taking shape pretty late into December in recent years.

For what it’s worth, the official NOAA forecast calls for better odds than not (40%) of below normal winter temperatures and equal chances of above or below normal precipitation.

Screen Shot 2022-10-04 at 12.53.05 PM
Screen Shot 2022-10-04 at 12.52.49 PM

This does line up with a more typical La Nina pattern. Time will tell, my friends. Either way, winter is coming. 

Next Up


Body found in burned out car near Bird Island identified as local farmer

The deceased is a 59-year-old man from rural Bird Island.

Screen Shot 2022-12-06 at 2.47.44 PM

Minneapolis' Khâluna named in Eater's 2022 'Best New Restaurants'

The restaurant, opened in 2021, is known for its Laotian cuisine.

ambulance, crash

3 pedestrians struck by drivers Monday in Minnesota; 2 dead

The victims involved a 39-year-old man and two 74-year-old men.

snow, plow

Shifting storm tracks: Significant storms Friday, next week?

Sven Sundgaard has the details on an interesting forecast.

Life Link

Worker suffers serious injury in rooftop fall in rural Minnesota

The man only fell a few feet, but suffered a serious leg injury.

Walz, Flanagan

Minnesota reports massive projected budget surplus of $17.6 billion

The huge surplus comes as the DFL prepares to assume a trifecta of the Legislature and the Governor's House.


Boil water advisory issued for part of Minneapolis after water main break

The main break caused significant flooding in an area of North Minneapolis Monday evening.


Deals struck between nursing union and hospitals, potentially averting strike

A strike was scheduled to start on Dec. 11 if a deal was not reached.

Minnesota Solar Installation - All Energy Solar

Make the Most of your Solar Panels with Energy Storage

Solar energy is great during the day, but what happens when the sun goes down?


Winter scene snow storm snowfall - Joe Nelson Feb 2022 10

What AccuWeather's 2022-23 winter forecast says about Minnesota

Snowier periods than normal December through February?

cold, wind chill, freezing

How a rare 'triple dip' La Nina could impact Minnesota's winter

Three consecutive La Nina winters has only happened twice since 1950.

Winter scene snow storm snowfall - Joe Nelson Feb 2022 8

Sven Sundgaard's preview of winter 2022-23 in Minnesota

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard looks ahead to what could happen this winter in Minnesota.

winter, cold,

NOAA updates winter outlook: Odds favor colder Minnesota

The NWS doesn't get into snowfall specifics, but temps and overall precipitation are discussed.

icicles, freezing weather, cold weather

The Weather Channel predicts cold finish to winter in MN

The Weather Channel didn't get into snow projections.


Sven Sundgaard: What La Nina means for Minnesota's 2020-21 winter

While El Nino is a slam dunk for warmer winters, La Nina is less predictable.

Lake Nokomis

Why Minnesota's cool spring is a good indicator for a hot summer

Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard explains why our cool spring means there's a good chance Minnesota has a hot summer.


When will Minnesota reach the 'snow turning back' point of winter?

There's a key point every winter where there's no turning back. When will Minnesota reach that point this year?