New 30-Day Outlook: Mild January? Christmas Eve snow chance?

Folks wondering where winter is in Minnesota this year may be waiting a bit longer.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) released it’s new 30-day outlook for January today. The outlook features a major shift in thinking from previous outlooks for winter in the Upper Midwest.

The January outlook now favors chances for a warmer than average January in Minnesota and the eastern half of the USA.

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The outlook is a major change form the colder than average predictions by NOAA and other private forecasters within the last month.

A persistent milder than average December weather pattern and shifts in the tropical Pacific Ocean are likely driving the changes.

As I talked about earlier this week, La Nina shows signs of fading in the Pacific. The weaker La Nina episode this year has not produced the same atmospheric circulation patterns as last year’s event that produced a vigorous winter in the Upper Midwest and eastern USA.

Here at the MPR Weather Lab, I’m not sure whether to totally but into the new CPC outlook yet. I’m seeing a potential pattern emerge that could drive some much colder air down into Minnesota from Canada around or after January 1st.

The dreaded “Polar Vortex” shows signs it may migrate southward to near Hudson Bay by early January. If that happens, it will drove down brutally cold arctic air masses into Minnesota.

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Could the “Polar Vortex” setting up over Hudson’s Bay around New Year’s Eve deliver an arctic outbreak in early January?

Stay tuned… while the rest of December looks milder than average overall, there could be an arctic outbreak in our future.

Ray of hope for saving a “White Christmas?”

This week I’ve talked about a 70% chance of having a “Brown Christmas” in the metro and much of western and southern Minnesota.

I’m not ready to go any higher than that yet….and 30% is still hanging tough today.

The GFS has been hinting at a possible snow system headed for the Upper Midwest in the days just before Christmas. The latest version paints a low pressure system emerging from the southwest and tracking into the Midwest on Christmas Eve.

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If it verifies, this could potentially “save” a White Christmas from the metro into southeast Minnesota, northeast Iowa, and much of Wisconsin.

The latest GFS model run is printing out .33″ of precip on Christmas Eve at MSP Airport, with temps cold enough for all snow. If that scenario were to pan out (and it’s a long way off) it could be 3″ to 4″ of snow in the metro, with heavier snow in southeast Minnesota.


Just as likely though, the system could completely miss us to the south.

Stay tuned….Santa may still have a little “Christmas Weather Magic” in his stocking for Minnesotans who want a white Christmas!


  • Randy in Champliln


    I see what I think you are seeing, as far as the cold. Stratospheric warming over the north pole region will depress the polar vortex and send some arctic cold air this way. That is what is showing on the GFS model, but the CFS models is not, and from what I’m hearing from other sources that are not free is the European weeklies are not showing that either. Lets see if the GFS will win out .

    Snow on the 24th??? I would give it no better than a 20% chance because another important model does not show it

  • Paul Huttner

    Hi Randy:

    Yes Christmas Eve & New Year’s are still too far out to be much more than distant speculation and blog chat at this point. GFS is back to the notion of very mild New Year’s Eve on the 0Z run too.

    Euro & Canadian do hint at a wave in the western USA before Christmas Eve, but let’s see how the long wave pattern evolves by late next week.

    I’ll stick with a 70% chance of a “Brown Christmas” for now…but watching what looks like a potentially chaotic long wave pattern late next week.