If last year's long, harsh winter in Minnesota had you considering other places to live, take heart -- the weather service says that's probably not in the cards for this winter.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center just issued its U.S. Winter Outlook. And it says a repeat performance of last year's extremely cold, snowy winter east of the Rockies is unlikely.

NOAA's Mike Halpert told the Associated Press the upcoming winter looks pretty average in general. He doesn't expect a lot of extreme conditions like last year's cold outbreaks when Arctic air dipped south with the polar vortex.

In fact, the report says the northern half of Minnesota this year has about 33% chance of being warmer than average in December, January and February. NOAA says there isn't a strong enough climate signal to make a prediction for the southern half of the state.

"In addition, the Temperature Outlook favors warmer-than-average temperatures in the Western U.S., extending from the west coast through most of the inter-mountain west and across the U.S.-Canadian border through New York and New England, as well as Alaska and Hawaii."

Jacob Beitlich is a Forecaster at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. He says we can expect a weak El Nino this winter, creating slightly milder conditions.

Beitlich says while it's hard to predict long-term weather trends, forecasters believe El Nino will help keep storm tracks moving this winter instead of stalling-out, bringing persistent misery. And that, he says, means when we do get cold snaps, they likely won't be for long periods of time.

Beitlich says in a weak El Nino pattern, which is what is forecast for Minnesota this winter, other weather variables -- including weather in Alaska, the Pacific and Atlantic -- have a stronger influence. "Unfortunately," he says, "those variables have low predictability, so in short, we're thinking 'near normal' winter this year.  We'll see."


National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center


NOAA Climate Prediction Center

As far as rain, sleet and snow, the U.S. Winter Outlook isn't as clear for Minnesota. NOAA says:

"...there is not a strong enough climate signal for these areas to make a prediction, so they have an equal chance for above-, near-, or below-normal temperatures and/or precipitation."

However, there is trending data to suggest maybe less snow in the southeastern corner of the state.

Beitlich says so far, all the signs point to an average snowfall in Central Minnesota, give or take 10-inches -- neither too wet nor too dry. Great news for snowmobilers AND folks tired of digging out from last year's heavy snows.


NOAA Climate Prediction Center

NOAA says the seasonal outlook doesn't project when or where individual snowstorms may hit, or how much snow we may get this season. But it does give us an idea of weather trending.

The venerable long-range forecast from Old Farmer's Almanac on the other hand, says it'll be colder in the St. Cloud area. And there'll be less snow.

"Winter temperatures, precipitation, and snowfall all will be below normal. The coldest periods will be in late December, early to mid-January, late January, and early to mid-February. The snowiest periods will occur in late November, mid- to late December, early to mid-January, and mid- to late February."

Regardless of which source you believe, both predict we'll see winter and snow. Just not the brutal winter weather of last year. Let's hope they're both right on that.