Halftime Forecast: Less snow in winter’s 2nd half?

The ” Great Snow Blitz” winter of 2010-’11 has been relentless. That may be about to change.

The upper air pattern so far this winter has brought frequent snowfalls to Minnesota. This includes 7 storms that have produced 6″+ snowfalls in southern Minnesota! It also includes the 17.1″ “Domebuster” which is the 5th biggest snowstorm in Twin Cities history.

In total, the storms so far have dumped 53.9″ (and counting) on the Twin Cities. That’s nearly a full winter’s snowfall (average) of 55.9″ already by mid-January!

The Twin Cities NWS has a great list detailing winter storm events so far this season.

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If you take our season snowfall total of about 54″ over the past 10 weeks, we’ve been getting nailed by snow at the rate of about 5.4″ per week.

That snowfall rate may be unsustainable.

Persistent northwest flow setting up:

Our upper air flow during the first half of winter featured a flow component off the northern Pacific Ocean. That sent a series of storms toward Minnesota, many of which were hybrid clippers “turbo charged” by additional Pacific moisture.

The dominant upper air pattern the next two weeks appears to be northwest flow. This should keep us seasonably cold with a few brief warm ups. It may also feature a few little clipper type snow systems, which should produce only light snowfalls.

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Persistent northwest upper air flow may mean less snow in the next two weeks.

The source region for northwest flow in Minnesota is the arctic deserts inside the Arctic Circle. The region lacks sufficient moisture to generate the big 6″+ blockbuster snows that slammed Minnesota in the first half of winter. The result may be a few light 1″ type snowfalls in the next two weeks…but I don’t see any big 6″+ snowfall events looming in the forecast into the first week of February. At least not yet.

Our snowfall total of about 54″ through the first half of winter would put us on track for around 100″ for the winter season. That would challenge the record for the all time snowiest winter of 98.4″ set in 1983-’84. Right now, I just don’t see us sustaining the snowfall frequency and intensity during the second half of winter that blasted us during the first half of winter. Of course February and March can, and likely will bring a few more heavy snow events.

At around 54″ of snow so far, we still need another 20″ to break into the top 10 snow seasons in the metro. We need about another 27″ to crack the top 5…and a whopping 45″ to challenge the top spot. That’s a tall order, even for Minnesota…even in this savage winter.

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Stay tuned!


  • Tim Ward

    interesting that 3 of the top 10 snowfalls happened in consecutive years in the early 1980s. I grew up on the East Coast and I remember some fairly harsh winters by mid-Atlantic standards then, as well. It even got below zero a couple times.