Metro lakes open: Friday snow

Take a look at Lake Minnetonka today near the Weather Lab.

You can see the ice has formed in some of the protected bays, but it’s still all open water on the main lake.

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The view from St. Louis Bay on Lake Minnetonka at sunset Wednesday.

Wave action and a lack of clear calm nights with temps near zero have kept the big lakes open so far this season. It’s not unusual to have some open water on December 1st on the bigger metro lakes, but I can remember many years in the 70s where we were skating and playing hockey as kids exactly where the above photo was taken on Thanksgiving weekend in the ’70s.

Lake ice data from the Minnesota DNR and Freshwater Society founder Dick Gray shows that ice on Minnesota lakes is freezing about a week later and breaking up in spring about a week earlier on average than it did just 30 years ago. That’s two weeks of extra open water on most Minnesota lakes. It also delays the dates that “safe ice” forms on our lakes early in the winter season.

Remember, you need at least 4″ of ice to be considered safe for walking or ice fishing. We’re just not there yet on lakes (and ponds!) around the metro, and in most of southern Minnesota. Since ice thickness can vary from spot to spot depending on springs and currents…there really is no “safe ice” according to some experts.

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Take care on developing ice for a few more weeks. Next week looks cold enough to make some more ice around southern Minnesota.

Friday Clipper? (repost from AM…no changes in forecast thinking yet)

The forecast models are advertising the potential for our next snow maker Friday and Friday night. A clipper like system will slide east from Montana/Wyoming Friday, and will likely spread a shield of snow east as warm air tries to overrun our cold dome near the surface. It looks like all snow with this one…no pesky rain/snow line to deal with.

This colder system should feature a drier more powdery snow. The snow:water ratio could be 15:1 with this system…meaning it will take less water to pile up a few inches.

The forecast models are cranking out the potential for about .30″ to .50″ of liquid equivalent or so somewhere in southern Minnesota by Saturday morning. You can do the math to see that could be a “plowable” snow event. Somebody in southern Minnesota could see the potential for 3″ to 6″ with this system…but it’s too early to say where (or if?) that may happen.

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Models hint at potentially significant snow Friday for the metro.

The forecast tracks of clippers are notoriously fickle, and precip amounts otften too high in early model runs. I’ll have to see a few more model runs to see if the system tracks further south. The models have a tendency to steer these systems south over time. If it does…that could spell the difference between placing the heavier snow band in the metro…or along the I-90 corridor in southern Minnesota.

The “meteorologically responsible” thing to do at this point is to alert for the possibility of snow…and leave the “inches” forecast until a few more model runs (hopefully) agree on the storm track and precip output.

Stay tuned, but be prepared for the possibility of slick travel and “shovelable” snow Friday PM (& PM rush hour!) into Saturday morning.


  • Chris Marshall

    Mr. Huttner:

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your honest, scientific, no hype approach to weather prediction.

    I spend a significant amount of time traveling from Mpls. to outstate MN including destinations like Fargo, Grand Forks, etc.

    You are my first source for weather predictions. Thank you for your dedication and thank you for using your knowledge and experience to try and get it right!

  • Charles Nelson

    I second this…..My eyes are glued to this blog more often than I care to admit…..For any weather geek this is a pretty cool stuff. It has something for all levels of knowledge…easy to use forecasts all the way up to the fancy technical language like “Bomb Cyclogenesis”. I like to use these terms at the dinner table (even if I don’t know what I am talking about)… is just so fun to say!