It's looking less brown today.
The snow that fell Thursday and Friday made for a snowy ending to this month that up to now has been renowned for its absence of snow. However dry conditions could be changing as a winter storm is forecast for today with new snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.
Thus far, December has been abnormally dry with less than a quarter inch of precipitation recorded.
Typically, Bemidji sees close to three quarters of an inch of precipitation for the month. The dry conditions led the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to require burning permits, unusual for late December. Not coincidentally, a fire developed west of Gonvick earlier this week and burned 750 acres before being extinguished.
Areas in the northern half of the United States notorious for their copious lake effect snow totals are also running much below average. As of Friday, Buffalo, NY, had recorded only 4 inches. The average snowfall in Buffalo for the month of December is 25 inches. Marquette, Mich., has recorded "only" 45 inches of snow thus far, compared to an average of 70 inches at this point.
Temperatures have been considerably warmer than average for this time of year. According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office the average high in Bemidji for December has been 29. The average low has been 13. This compares to a long-term average high for December of 21 and an average low of 3.
Winter forecasts predicted "brutally cold and snowy" conditions for the north woods. What went wrong? Many climatologists are blaming a strong positive Arctic Oscillation for the lack of true winter weather thus far. This condition results in low pressure that steers the jet stream much farther north than usual. A weaker, more negative Arctic Oscillation allows periodic incursions of frigid air to flow into the contiguous 48 states.
A more negative pattern could develop near the middle of January, according to climatologists. Should this occur we could see temperatures more in line with a northern Minnesota winter.
Siemers is the Pioneer's circulation director. Email him at tsiemers@ bemidjipioneer.com.