Three-month weather outlook favors snow, cold for Minot region

Forecast favors snowy, cold winter

Submitted Photo Most of North Dakota is favored for above-average precipitation December-February as the result of strengthening La Nina conditions.

It has been a very agreeable start to the winter season in the Minot area and across the state. Temperatures have yet to plunge into single digits or the minus range, which is entirely possible for this time of year. Snowfall that sometimes dumps on the state in October and remains on the ground all winter has stayed away.

With open ground across the region and the state, and snow shovels and snowblowers not yet needed, the brown landscape certainly doesn’t resemble what North Dakotans know is often the case in this state – snow on the ground that is here to stay for the duration of the winter season. Fact is, quite the reverse has been true. October saw a mere wisp of snow and November has been more of the same with no precipitation at all reported through Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Our favorable weather thus far in the winter season won’t last forever. Present conditions may be a situation of enjoy it while you can. According to the latest three-month weather outlook issued by the Climate Prediction Center, a change is on the way, perhaps even a period of “getting even” for the late start to winter conditions.

In their monthly issuance of the three-month weather outlook the CPC says La Nina will play a significant role in our weather, particularly after the start of 2021. La Nina conditions are spurred by a cooling of water temperatures in certain regions the Pacific Ocean.

“La Nina strengthened during October and is likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere winter of 2020-21 and into the spring of 2021,” says the CPC. “Below-normal temperatures are most likely for southeastern Alaska, parts of the Pacific Northwest, the far Northern Rockies, and the Northern Plains.”

The CPC also cites the northern Great Plains, which includes North Dakota, as having an “enhanced probability for above-normal seasonal total precipitation.” In North Dakota precipitation in the winter months almost always arrives as snow.

How confident is the CPC in their latest outlook? Very confident, giving La Nina a 90% chance of influencing our weather from January through March of 2021 and a 60% chance that such influences will continue in March, April and May of 2021.

While that may sound unusually daunting, it should be noted that at the present time the referenced La Nina is not a particularly strong one. While it certainly has the potential to dominate our weather in the months ahead, it may not result in a winter that will seem much different than in years past. Our winter temperatures are expected to average about a degree less than usual and the amount of snowfall can vary greatly from one locale to another.

Minot’s average daily high temperature in December is 23.6 degrees, January 20.9. December lows average 7.2 degrees and January lows 3.5. Average snowfall in December is 7.6 inches and in January 10.8 inches.

The forecast for the next two weeks calls for a continuation of what the Minot area has been experiencing for more than a month, below-normal precipitation and above-normal temperatures. The change in the weather ahead starts in December, says the CPC, when the entire state can expect weather as usual, neither favoring above or below normal temperatures or precipitation. By January though La Nina’s influence will begin to effect our weather patterns. How much so remains to be seen.

In the short-term Minot’s weather, especially when considering the season, looks quite favorable. Daytime highs from the mid-30’s to low 40’s are forecast well into next week with no snow expected.


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