Winter outlook: Cold temps, snow uncertain

Winter is coming. The unknown is how cold and snowy it might be.

“The best guess is it will wind up below normal,” said Tom Hulquist, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen.

Although near-record highs are expected today and Thanksgiving Day Thursday, Hultquist said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s long-range forecast for December through March in Minnesota points to temperatures 30 to 40 percent below normal.

The winter solstice is 5:16 a.m. CST Dec. 21.

Hultquist said there are several unknowns that could affect winter weather in the St. Croix Valley and remainder of Minnesota.

“Three or four months ago, it was looking like we were going to have an El Nino,” he said. “But that hasn’t come to pass. There is no El Nino or La Nina this year. Overall, there is a slightly better than normal chance that we could have below normal temperatures. The signals are not really strong.”

Another possible affect on the region’s winter weather is what Hultquist called the “Atlantic oscellation,” a high-pressure ridge over the Atlantic Ocean that could slide over the Upper Midwest.

“We get into December and we some of that happening,” he said.

Hultquist said the long-range winter precipitation outlook is equally sketchy, but leaning toward below normal snowfall. In fact, Hultquist said the region would see a dry Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

“If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t bet the house” on snow, he said.

In fact, Hultquist said temperatures today and Thursday will be well above normal for this time of year.

“The warmest day will be (today),” he said. “We’re expected temperatures to get well into the 60s.”

Thanksgiving Day Thursday will see highs into the upper 50s early before temperatures fall later in the day, Hultquist said.

“We have a cold front coming through Thursday morning late or the afternoon,” he said. “There’s not too much to worry about. We might have showers Thursday night transitioning to light snow. It could be a little breezy. It will be colder, but not too cold.”

Hultquist said the rest of the weekend would be cold, but dry.

“There’s very little chance of anything this weekend,” he said.

However, Hultquist said there are signs that the area could see snow sometime next week, when temperatures return to normal for late November.

“There are hints of a storm coming up from the middle part of the country,” he said. “People should keep an eye on the forecast. It would be the middle part of next week.”