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After tame 2011-12, tough to tell what’s in store for this winter

November 20, 2012
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - There are two schools of thought heading into the winter season:

On one side, there are the snow enthusiasts who would like to leave the winter of 2011-12 in the rearview mirror - the snowmobilers and skiers - and those who make snow their business - the people who sell the aforementioned items, and the other businesses that sell snowblowers and winter gear.

Then there's the other group: the commuters who didn't have to deal with too much ice and snow last year, the schools that didn't have to worry about snow days, and the cities and counties that saved a bundle on snow removal and sand/salt.

So what will this winter bring?

Conventional wisdom would say we're in for a big-time winter, filled with blizzards strong enough to shut everything down for a day or two.

No way we will have two tame winters in a row, right?

But when dealing with the weather in today's world, conventional wisdom might not cut it.

Kyle Weisser, a meteorologist out of the Sioux Falls, S.D., office of the National Weather Service, said Monday that this winter's outlook (December through February) calls for slightly below normal temperatures and equal chances for normal precipitation. He said there are no signals strong enough to determine if Minnesota will have a wet or dry winter.

Winter temperatures, however, play off what's on the ground, Weisser said. The more snow an area has, the colder it's likely to be.

"As long as we avoid widespread, heavy snowcover, temperatures are going to be above normal," he said. "If you look around the area, the average high temp with no snow on the ground is 10 to 12 degrees warmer than it is with snow. You could have exactly the same patterns set up, but with no snow on the ground you're going to get warmer weather."

Because of what meteorologists call North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), last winter was filled with record high temperatures in just about every month. In January, temps hit the upper 50s and lower 60s. Record warmth in March (70 degrees on March 13) threw a wrench in the growing season for certain foods and plants, and although the area got a shot of snow in early March, it wasn't even close to making up for what turned out to be a lost season for snowmobilers and manufacturers of winter-related products.

"It's still being studied," Weisser said about NAO. "Generally, when there's a negative NAO, it calls for slightly colder temps with more precip. When it's positive, there's a better chance for above normal temperatures and drier conditions. It seems like that fluctuates more quickly than El Ninos and La Ninas."

Near record highs could be in store for Wednesday, the NWS said, before things cool off on Thanksgiving day and into Friday, with temps climbing only into the 40s, which is about average for this time of year.



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