Don’t look now, but we’re turning the corner on the last third of winter.

We’re getting off relatively easy this winter compared to last year’s full blown arctic assault. Polar Vortex? Not so much. Snowmageddon? Not this winter — at least so far.

Check out the numbers so far this winter.

  • +5.1 degrees: Temperatures vs. average at MSP Airport in December
  • +3.2 degrees: Temperatures vs. average at MSP through January 28
  • 20.4 inches: Season snowfall so far in the Twin Cities
  • -13 inches: Compared to average to date
  • + 1 hour: Daylight gained in Minnesota vs. December 21 by this weekend
  • 29 days: Time until meteorological spring
Noticeably brighter evening daylight in late January. Still plenty of light in the southwest sky at 5:30 p.m. in Victoria. Paul Huttner/MPR News

Weather forecasting is still part science, part artful reading of weather tea leaves. I’m happy about that. It feeds the weather shaman in me.

Will February bring more snow? Any chance of another record warm March Indian Summer like 2012? One meteorologist’s educated guess is still as good as another’s.

One thing that seems more likely by the day is that winter’s coldest days are probably behind us now. Yes, February likely delivers one or two more wintry sub-zero blows. But a solid week straight of sub-zero lows for the metro with little snow cover in a month with the sun climbing higher in the sky each day?

I doubt that.

Welcome to the home stretch of winter 2014-15.

Arctic “Lite”

The next push of arctic air on the maps sags south this weekend. Arctic air likes to pave the way with snow cover, and the incoming air mass squeezes out a dusting of snow as it arrives.

NOAA

The inbound Canadian air mass draws from a pool of sub-zero air across northern Canada.

Environment Canada (Temperatures in Celsius)

Upstream temperatures in the core of the incoming air mass hit -35C this morning at Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Environment Canada

That’s why I’m beginning to think the European model’s notion of at least one night near -10 in the Twin Cities is possible next week. The caveat is we’ll probably need at least a dusting of fresh snow cover by then to get that cold.

European model (ECMWF) output for via Weatherspark

The longer range outlook seems to suggest alternating between occasional cold shots, and milder Pacific breezes. In other words, fairly typical winter fare for early February.

IPS Meteostar

As for March and spring 2015?

Your weather guess is as good as mine. We may still get clobbered with legendary “tournament snowstorms” in March.

But I’m getting this sneaking feeling that the longer we go without significant snow cover, the better chance spring may come early this year. Air masses to the southwest have been cranking out record warmth the past few days as close as South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas.

NOAA is leaning toward a milder than average spring for the Upper Midwest in their seasonal outlooks.

NOAA

Last year we shivered through a March that ran -7.3 degrees vs. average.

Call it a hunch, but I get the sense March 2015 has a much higher chance to deliver us into “instant spring.”

Stay tuned.