Northland Winter Weather Outlook 2018-2019

Wondering What This Northland Winter Has In Store? Check Out The Fox 21 Weather Teams Forecast

DULUTH, Minn. – Halloween is right around the corner.  Along with the parties, kids are getting ready for trick-or-treating.  But, Northlanders know that the weather can very well be more of a trick rather than a treat.

Last year, just in time for Halloween weekend, more than ten inches of snow fell in Duluth.  While an inconvenience, that pales in comparison to the Halloween snow storm of 1991.

Snow began falling on Halloween and was coming down at an inch or two per hour and lasted for three days.  When it ended on November 2nd, 15″ to 36″ of snow accumulated across the Northland with the heaviest along the Minnesota border.

Strong northeast winds produced snow drifts of six to ten feet closing schools, businesses, and public transportation – some for days.

But, not every October produces that much snow and winter snow totals can be just as varied.

Duluth sees about 86″ of snow.  Looking at the last five years, three of the five are relatively close to that.  But, check out the 2013-2014 snow season where 131″ of snow accumulated.  However, the following year, only 49″ of snow fell, that’s more than six feet less snow than the year before!

With less of an influence from Lakes Superior, International Falls picks up an average of about 71″ of snow each year.  But, again, 2013-2014 was a snowy year there, too, with over 100″.

Lake effect snow can really pile up when those winds blow across the Great Lakes.  In Hurley, Wisconsin, an average of 170″ of snow accumulates each winter.  That’s more than fourteen feet of snow!

But, in the past five winters, the totals have been below average.  However, back in 2000-2001, 270″ of snow buried Hurley.

Now remember last year was a weak La Nina year and this year is going to be a weak El Nino year.

El Nino impacts our weather patterns here, especially in the winter.  It develops when sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are warmer than average for an extended period of time.  This can shift our polar jet stream further north and bring slightly above normal temperatures.

Duluth resident Amber Burns would like that, “I might be down for a warm winter, I love fall wardrobe so if I can wear my fall clothes a little longer that’s alright with me!”

And, Tyler Kimber is on board with that, too, “Really? Slightly warmer than negative 15, so it’s going to be about zero, which actually won’t be so bad.”

He’s right.  But, as Carol Christenson of the Duluth National Weather Service, we likely won’t feel much of a difference, “Once we take every single temperature, high temperature and low temperature every day and average them all up, we may be a few degrees above the normal. Since it is a weak El Nino, we are expecting our temperatures probably won’t be at the point where we keep out our flip flops!”

The cold weather will still spill into the Northland because of other factors like Arctic intrusions that can override El Nino for a few days at a time.

Christenson adds, “If you are prepared for it, it’s great because there are so many wonderful things that you can do outside — as long as you dress and prepare appropriately.”

A weak El Nino could also mean less storm systems passing through the Northland due to the altered jet stream.  This could lessen the amount of snow we pile up.

This pleases Burns, “I’m okay with that, actually. As long as we don’t get any big ice storms. I’m alright with the driving conditions being a little easier. I know some of my friends who ski might not be excited about that!”

Don’t worry snow lovers, we will still get our fair share of snowfall.

Christenson says, “Climatology would suggest that for a large portion of our winter we will have snow on the ground.”

Most of it will likely be dry and fluffy which won’t be the best for making snowmen this winter.  But, we always have snow angels, sledding, and, of course, snow days!  Winter just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Remember the climate report just came out saying severe rain and snow events will become more likely, alongside more heat waves and higher sea levels, too.

It’s no coincidence that we have record high water levels on Lake Superior slamming those massive waves further into the shores causing $35 million in damages within just two years.  With more water and milder temperatures, I doubt this lake will completely freeze over.

Right now, the water temperatures is 41 degrees, which is warmer than average.

The “big pond” hasn’t frozen completely over since 2014 and that was the second coldest winter on record for Duluth, where the average temperature was 3.8 degrees!

With a much milder winter ahead, ice sheets will form, lake ice will travel, and some water will be open, especially across wide sections of Lake Superior.  So, the lake effect snow machine will be turned on!

So, when the snow begins to fly, have an emergency kit in your car at all times.  This includes an ice scraper, which we will surely need, a shovel to dig yourself out in case you get stuck, and, of course, a blanket to keep you warm.

Here’s our forecast for the 2018-2019 winter weather season.  The odds are in our favor for slightly above normal temperatures and slightly below normal snowfall.

We should expect to see our average amount of snow storms hit the Northland and our temperatures will rise and fall like usual, with a few cold snaps.

We think northern Minnesota and inland areas will accumulate around 54″ to 77″.

In Duluth and along the North Shore, about 68″ to 89″.

And, the South Shore and “snow belt” totals could range from 90″ to 120″.

Enjoy your Northland winter!  This is why we live here, so have fun in it.

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