Some may say that winter "officially" begins on the winter solstice, December 21st at 11:30 p.m. The climate and weather community consider the months of December, January and February to nicely frame the historic reference of winter temperatures and precipitation. Today we close the chapter on the driest autumn on record in the Twin Cities and anxiously anticipate the winter of 2011/2012. Temperatures on average were about three to five degrees above normal for November.
The State Climate Office posted this graphic of the departure from normal for precipitation in Minnesota since the last week of July. Many locations along the Minnesota River and south to the Iowa border tallied less than an inch and a half of moisture from September 1st to November 30th.
Late this afternoon light snow, mixed with some light rain, had developed through central Minnesota into western Wisconsin. This band of precipitation is likely to become all snow later this evening as it sags south across the Twin Cities. The gradual southeast drift should place most of the light snow south of the metro by daybreak. Accumulations are expected to be an inch or less.
Our attention on Thursday will turn to another weather maker that has the potential to produce snow in southeast Minnesota Saturday. Models are presenting opposing solutions for how far north snow will extend. Regradless, colder air will sweep into the Upper Midwest on Saturday night and Sunday. You'll get the taste of winter.
The Climate Prediction Center has released an updated outlook for December. It's a tossup on above or below normal temperatures. As you know, normal is sorted out with daily extremes. I suspect there could be some healthy swings in temperatures, thus we'll agree with the equal chance of above or below normal temperatures for December.
The 30-day precipitation outlook also has equal chances of above or below normal for Minnesota and the surrounding states.
NOAA's Climate Center has not yet released an updated outlook for the meteorological winter. The previous forecast indicated odds favoring below normal temperatures in Minnesota, issued on November 17th.
In other big weather news, you may be interested in this warning for strong winds in southern California later tonight and into Friday. From the National Weather Service in Oxnard:
THE STRONGEST OFFSHORE WINDS WILL LIKELY BE FOCUSED THROUGH THE PASSES AND CANYONS OF LOS ANGELES AND VENTURA COUNTIES. DAMAGING WIND GUSTS OF 80 MPH OR GREATER THROUGH FAVORED MOUNTAIN PASSES...AND 60 MPH OR GREATER ACROSS WIND FAVORED COASTAL
AND VALLEY LOCATIONS WILL BE LIKELY.
Thanks for the updates, Craig. I imagine local media will hype Saturday's system to keep us tuned in. I must admit I've enjoyed the dry weather; it makes it easier to get around. My hopes are the system steers more south. NWS has it at 30% chance for snow in Delano on Saturday but I imagine that may change. Models make things very difficult for the weather forecasters, but I always get that sick feeling when I check the NWS page and things appear fine and then wake up to see my county shaded in blue under a Winter Storm Watch. My loathing of all that is winter boarders on the irrational, as I dream of a brown and dry Christmas - lights are enough for me. I'll be curious to see if that icy arctic air in Alaska that has made life miserable in Fairbanks heads this way - hopefully no time soon! Take care and thanks for the hard work.