NOAA: Another abnormally frigid, snowy winter 'unlikely' this year

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Most Minnesotans probably don't need reminding, but last winter was the coldest winter the state has seen in 35 years, according to DNR records.

The good news is a repeat of the extreme cold and snowy weather is "unlikely" this year, one federal weather agency says.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released this year's winter climate outlook Thursday, and Minnesota's forecast is encouraging for those who found last's year's winter a bit too frigid and snowy.

The northern half of Minnesota has a 33 percent chance of seeing warmer temperatures than normal, as demonstrated in the NOAA map below.

A small southeastern corner of Minnesota, as well as parts of neighboring states Wisconsin and Iowa, may experience drier than usual conditions.

Outside of the highlighted areas, the administration puts the state in the "equal chance" category – saying there's not a strong enough climate signal to make predictions, so there is an equal chance those areas see above-, near-, or below-normal precipitation and temperature.

The winter conditions could potentially be related to El Niño patterns.

As the Midwest Regional Climate Center reports, during winters when El Niño has been stronger, Minnesota can be warmer and drier than normal, due to the weather pattern keeping the Arctic and Pacific jet streams farther out.

As NOAA notes each year with winter climate outlooks, seasonal precipitation and snowfall accumulation is unpredictable; winter storms are usually not foreseeable more than a week in advance.

Last year, the NOAA included the north western corner of Minnesota in the area seeing cooler than normal temps, but the entire state was included in the "equal chances" precipitation region. The harsh temperatures and 69.7 inches of accumulated snowfall in the metro area (15.6 inches higher than an average) were certainly not anticipated.

The average temperature between December and February sat at 9.7 degrees, a full nine degrees below the normal seasonal average, the DNR says. Precipitation in the state was exponentially higher than normal, with February of 2014 being the sixth-snowiest February in recorded history.

All in all, the 2013-14 winter is ranked at the ninth-coldest for Minnesota – not a season residents will be quick to forget.

Other predictions for this upcoming cold season were about on track with the NOAA's.

In late August, the Farmer's Almanac released a long range prediction for the 2015 winter. It included Minnesota among the states that should expect cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. The publication said the lowest temperatures are likely in late January, potentially dropping to 40 below zero – not unheard of in recent Minnesota winters.

Accuweather also predicts a cold winter for the Midwest, but not as extreme as last year. Long-range predictions include below-normal snowfall accumulation in Minneapolis, and temperatures 7 to 9 degrees warmer than last year's averages.

This year, the NOAA is paying most attention to California, where federal agency says mountain snowfall is crucial for drought recovery. El Niño has pulled necessary moisture into California in the past, but the NOAA says this year the phenomenon is expected to be weak if it does develop.

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