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La Niña Watch issued: Minnesota at risk for snowier, colder winter

Is there a direct correlation between La Niña and snowfall in the Twin Cities?

Enjoy the 90 degrees while you can, Minnesota. Old Man Winter could be waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

The National Weather Service has issued a La Niña Watch, suggesting there's a 55-60 percent chance a La Niña occurs. 

What's a La Niña again?

Basically, a La Niña is an event characterized by cold water rising from the depths of the Pacific Ocean up to the surface. Then all kinds of scientific things happen, putting Minnesota at risk of a snowier, colder winter.

"Risk" is the key word because La Niña doesn't guarantee we'll see more snowfall than usual, at least not based on recent history in the Twin Cities. 

How much can the strength of a La Niña affect snowfall in Minnesota?

First, here's how much snow falls in an average year in specific Minnesota cities. 

The Twin Cities area received just 32 inches of snow last year, which was a La Niña winter.

La Niña can be categorized as "weak," "moderate," or "strong." 

Last winter was a weak La Niña. The winter of 2011-12 was also a weak La Niña, resulting in only 22.3 inches of snow in the Twin Cities. A moderate La Niña was in place in 2010-11 and the result was a whopping 86.6 inches of snow in the Twin Cities. 

Other La Niña years and corresponding Twin Cities area snow totals: 

  • 2007-08: 44.8 inches (moderate La Niña)
  • 2000-01: 75.8 inches (weak La Niña)
  • 1999-00: 36.2 inches (moderate La Niña)
  • 1998-99: 56.5 inches (moderate La Niña) 

According to the Golden Gate Weather Service, there have only been three strong La Niña's on record. Here's what happened in terms of snowfall in the Twin Cities area those years. 

  • 1988-89: 70.1 inches
  • 1975-76: 54.5 inches
  • 1973-74: 51.2 inches

Now what?

Clearly, a La Niña doesn't necessarily mean you need to buy a bigger snowblower. It depends on the strength of it. La Niña can also have an impact on your bank account. According to Bloomberg, gas traders watch closely for La Niña winters because they can be a leading cause for surging natural gas prices and home heating costs. 

You can check out annual snowfall totals from the Minnesota DNR right here.

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