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Sven Sundgaard: What's in store for Minnesota's weather in December?

Sundgaard recaps Minnesota's fall and looks ahead to December.

Happy meteorological winter! Boy, did it start in full force this week. Let’s take a look back at fall and see how the numbers played out.

First, it should surprise no one that it was a mild autumn. Temperatures averaged nearly 2 degrees above normal (1.9 deg F) which may not sound like a whole lot but the standard deviation for average fall temperature is just 2.8 deg F. It wasn’t mild enough to put us in the top 10 or 20 but does put us in the top 27% of our records.

Fall 2022 temperature anomalies

Fall 2022 temperature anomalies

September, October and November were all warmer than normal with September being the most above normal at +2.7 degrees, then October at +2.5 degrees and November barely squeaked by at +0.5 degrees. In western Minnesota, November temperatures were colder than average and in the Arrowhead they were the most above normal.

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November temperature anomalies

November temperature anomalies

Precipitation was of course the big story. September and October were extremely dry with just 0.48 inches of precipitation combined at MSP. November alone saw 2.40 inches, five times the combined total of September and October.

Percent normal precipitation for Sept-Oct-Nov 2022

Percent normal precipitation for Sept-Oct-Nov 2022

Percent normal precipitation for November 2022

Percent normal precipitation for November 2022

The activity of November wasn’t just reflected in liquid form but also in snowfall. We saw 13 inches of snow in the Twin Cities, nearly double the normal value of 6.7 inches, mostly of course, thanks to our big storm at the end of the month that brought 8.4 inches on the 29th.

It was also a snowy November along the North Shore, where many places saw over 2 feet of snow.

It was also a snowy November along the North Shore, where many places saw over 2 feet of snow.

So what might December bring?

Winter often brings a totally different pattern than summer or fall. November seems to have been offering us hints of what the start of winter might bring: more active precipitation and at least more variations in temperatures that could keep us closer to normal or even colder than normal.

The big buzz in the forecasting community is the pretty extreme blocking pattern forecast to occur over Greenland. I’ll likely be talking about this more ahead, but basically all of the models seem to be playing this scenario out for the month of December. It’s not often that all the longer range models agree, but they do this time.

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All of them forecast colder than normal conditions for Minnesota and the east, with warmer than normal conditions in Alaska and Greenland.

So, what about snowfall? That’s more complicated, of course. For Minnesota to get above normal snow, you want to be in the sweet spot of frequent temperature fluctuations… that’s where the storm track is. So, we want to be cooler than normal, but not by too much or we just end up cold and dry and the storms all go south and east. Often times in this kind of blocking pattern it gets very snowy in places like Kansas City, Chicago and New York, and we’re just below zero a bunch. 

For now, the models don’t see an above normal signature for snowfall over Minnesota but likely more to our east in December.

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Either way, welcome to the start of meteorological winter! Whether you're a snow lover or hate it all together, whatever happens will surely give us all something to celebrate or complain about. 

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