The Twin Cities just endured its fifth-hottest summer since record-keeping began in 1871, and tea leaves hint the warming trend will stick around until next spring.
The Climate Prediction Center (CPC) this week released its winter outlook for Minnesota, and the forecast calls for a 40% to 60% chance that temperatures from November through March will run above normal for most of the state. Northeastern Minnesota has the highest chance of above-average temperatures, the prediction center said.
"That doesn't mean that a warmer winter is a slam dunk," said Pete Boulay with the Minnesota State Climate Office. "This outlook is betting on a pretty significant El Niño this winter."
El Niño is a climate condition when warmer water in the Pacific Ocean is pushed toward the west coast of the United States. The warmer water causes the Pacific jet stream to move south of its neutral position. When that happens, areas in the northern U.S. and Canada are dryer and warmer than usual, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
If the pattern holds, the winter of 2023-24 should be much milder than last year's, when the Twin Cities saw its third-snowiest season ever with 90.3 inches and recorded 17 nights with temperatures at or below zero, according to the State Climate Office.
Duluth set an all-time record with 140.1 inches of snow, as did St. Cloud, with 88.2 inches for the season. Rochester's 63.3 inches came in 12th.
While temperatures are poised to run above normal, precipitation during the five-month period is projected to run at or just below normal, with the driest conditions expected in the northern half of Minnesota.
That won't help the state's ongoing drought, which is expected to persist across the northern half of Minnesota, according to the CPC's Seasonal Drought Outlook covering September through December.
A warmer winter would follow a summer in which the Twin Cities saw 32 days with readings at or above 90 degrees. That was the most since 1988 — when there were 44 days of 90 degrees or warmer — and tied for sixth-most 90-degree days on record.
Overall, 2023 was the fifth-warmest summer on record in the metro area, bested only by 2011, 1988, 1933 and 2012.