Long Range Outlook for January 2021 and a look back at 2020

This will be my final post in 2020, and likely will be my last post for a few days (lots of football watching ahead including the College Football Playoff games on Friday and a big NFL Sunday, plus the weather pattern locally looks pretty quiet through the weekend, perfect timing I guess)

The only issue I see weather-wise around here through Saturday could be some patchy fog at times which could lead to the development of some hoarfrost and slick spots on the roads, and like today we could even see a few fluffy snow flurries occur from time to time due to the added moisture in the atmosphere because of the patchy fog.

Happy New Year, and thank you to all who viewed Northlandweatherblog in 2020, it had 18,534 views in 2020, and 6945 visitors. A total of 352 posts in 2020. Thank you again!

The National Weather Service in Duluth, Minnesota put together a top 10 Northland Weather Events list of 2020 – Here’s the link https://www.weather.gov/dlh/2020-top-ten

…Severe Weather Stats in the Northland for 2020…

A warmer than average December at Duluth, Minnesota with slightly below average snowfall and precipitation. The average monthly temperature for December 2020 will finish ~5.0 degrees above normal while snowfall ends up ~1.0″ below normal, with precipitation ~0.25″ below normal. Note: I’ll have a complete climate summary for December 2020 early next week.

2020 was a warm and dry year in Duluth. The average temperature in 2020 was nearly 2.0 degrees above normal while precipitation was ~9.70″ below normal. Although not official yet, 2020 looks to rank as the 10th driest year on record, while tying for 11th warmest year on record at Duluth, Minnesota.
Climate Normals and Records for January at Duluth, Minnesota

Normal high on the 1st: 19 degrees
Normal high on the 31st: 20 degrees

Normal low on the 1st: 3 degrees
Normal low on the 31st: 2 degrees

Averages for the month

Temperature: 10.2 degrees
Precipitation: 0.96″
Snowfall: 19.4″

Number of subzero nights: 15
Number of 1″ or greater snow events: 4
Number of days with snowfall 0.1″ or greater: 12

Records for the month

Warmest: 23.7 degrees set in 2006
Coldest: -7.2 degrees set in 1912

Wettest: 4.70″ set in 1969
Driest: 0.13″ set in 2008

Snowiest: 46.8″ set in 1969
Least Snowiest: 2.0″ set in 1921

Astronomical Data for January

Sunrise on the 1st: 7:54 AM CST
Sunrise on the 31st: 7:33 AM CST

Sunset on the 1st: 4:31 PM CST
Sunset on the 31st: 5:10 PM CST

Note: 5 PM or later sunsets return to Duluth in late January!

Note: Duluth typically sees 15 subzero nights in January, while the average monthly temperature for January is 10.2 degrees. The outlook for January 2021 would certainly lead to fewer subzero nights compared to average, and an average monthly temperature several degrees warmer than normal. Similar to what we saw in December any arctic air masses would likely be brief if we see any at all in January 2021.

Outlook for January 2021 calls for more of the same, and that is another warmer than average month across the Northland per CFS model.

Source: https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/

Precipitation is forecast to be near normal to slightly below normal across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin in January 2021 per CFS model.

Note: Average snowfall in Duluth for January is 19.4″.


Northland Snowfall Totals from December 29-30, 2020; Gusty Winds possible along the North Shore tonight; mainly dry through this weekend

Last night’s snow event was an overachiever in some parts of the Northland, this was especially true near Lake Superior where widespread 5-6″+ snow totals were reported, including nearly a foot of snow near Cornucopia, and nearly 8″ of snow reported in the Two Harbors area. Totals in Duluth were right around 5 to 6 inches. For the record, I did mention in my blog post last evening the possibility for there to be isolated 5″ totals across the area, but I did not expect there to be so many locations that reported 5″ or more of snow last night, so yeah I’m a little surprised about that. All about the fluff factor, large snowflakes accumulate very efficiently.

December 29-30, 2020 snowfall total at the Duluth Airport was 5.3″ with 0.29″ of precipitation. Snow to liquid ratio was 18:1 in Duluth which was what the computer models were showing for this event, so that’s always nice to see. By the way, the snow to liquid ratio in Duluth was a whopping 32:1 for today (since Midnight) with 2.9″ of snow, melted down to 0.09″ of liquid precipitation, that’s an incredible ratio! A very fluffy snowfall.

The pattern ahead at least for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin looks pretty quiet thru this weekend, and possibly into next week as well, but there are a few systems to keep an eye on for next week, but so far there is no consistency on storm tracks per model data (shocking I know)

Note: A month that started out very dry in the Northland has turned quite snowy during the second half of December, but snowfall totals for the month continue to run slightly below normal at Duluth (-1.0″), and slightly above normal at International Falls (+0.8″)

…Snowfall Stats for Duluth, Minnesota…

  • 16.1″ of snow so far this month (-1.0″ below normal to date)
  • 47.3″ of snow so far this season (+14.1″ above normal to date)
  • 5 one-inch or greater snowfall events this month, average in December is 4 one-inch or greater snowfall events.

Snowfall Reports from December 29-30, 2020

Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

  • 3 S Cornucopia, WI: 11.5″
  • 4 WNW Red Cliff, WI: 10.0″
  • 2 SW Bayfield, WI: 10.0″
  • 3 E Sand Bay, WI: 9.0″
  • 1 SE Cornucopia, WI: 8.9″
  • 2 SW Two Harbors, MN: 7.5″
  • 1 SSE Two Harbors, MN: 7.3″
  • 4 NW Palmers, MN: 7.0″
  • 1 SSE Oulu, WI: 6.8″
  • 3 WSW Shaw, MN: 6.2″
  • 1 NW Baxter, MN: 6.0″
  • 2 NNW Gary New Duluth, MN: 6.0″
  • 3 SW Lester Park, MN: 6.0″
  • 5 NE Rice Lake, MN: 6.0″
  • 1 NW Washburn, WI: 6.0″
  • Knife River, MN: 6.0″
  • Danbury, WI: 6.0″
  • Solon Springs, WI: 6.0″
  • 2 N Pillager, MN: 5.8″
  • Silver Bay, MN: 5.8″
  • 1 W Solon Springs, WI: 5.6″
  • 1 NNE Duluth, MN (Central Hillside) 5.5″
  • 3 W Lester Park (Woodland Duluth, MN) 5.5″
  • 1 N Pleasant Valley, MN: 5.5″
  • 1 NW Motley, MN: 5.3″
  • Gile, WI: 5.3″
  • 3 SSE South Range, WI: 5.3″
  • 4 W Grand Marais, MN: 5.3″
  • Duluth Airport: 5.3″
  • 3 NNW Mahtowa, MN: 5.2″
  • 3 E Payne, MN: 5.0″
  • 1 WNW Brainerd, MN: 5.0″
  • 1 NE West Duluth, MN: 5.0″
  • Mahtowa, MN: 5.0″
  • Wrenshall, MN: 4.9″
  • 1 N Cloquet, MN: 4.7″
  • Ashland, WI: 4.7″
  • 1 E Superior, WI: 4.7″
  • Kettle River, MN: 4.5″
  • 1 SW Grantsburg, WI: 4.5″
  • 3 N Amnicon Falls S.P. 4.4″
  • 4 NNE Stone Lake, WI: 4.3″
  • 1 ENE Hoyt Lakes, MN: 4.0″
  • Mckinley, MN: 4.0″
  • 1 WNW Cass Lake, MN: 4.0″
  • Cook, MN: 4.0″
  • 7 SSW Grand Rapids, MN: 3.9″
  • 6 NE Patzau, WI: 3.0″
  • 4 SSE Webster, WI: 3.0″
  • Grand Rapids, MN: 3.0″
  • Keewatin, MN: 2.9″
  • Hovland, MN: 2.6″
  • International Falls, MN: 1.9″

Strong wind gusts could develop along the North Shore tonight with potential for 30-45+ mph wind gusts for a few hours from mid to late evening.

21z HRRR model forecast ending 3 AM Thursday.

Source: https://weathermodels.com/

Note: January is typically our coldest month of the year in Duluth, but the first week or so of January 2021 looks rather balmy!

Look at this temperature forecast for Duluth, Minnesota! No arctic air at least for the next 10 days, enjoy!

Source: https://weathermodels.com/

Yes, it has been a warm December in Duluth and throughout the Northland!

22 days (76% of days) have had an above average temperature in Duluth vs. only 7 days (24%) that have been below average so far this month.

Red=Above average temperature

Blue=Below average temperature

Source: https://mesonet.agron.iastate.edu/

December 2020 Average Temperature and Departure from Normal (thru the 29th)

Note: The brief shots of arctic air over the last week or so have knocked the average temps out of a top 10 warmest December on record.

Ashland: 22.8 F; +4.1 degrees above normal
Brainerd: 20.5 F; +4.9 degrees above normal
Duluth: 20.2 F; +5.2 degrees above normal
International Falls: 17.5 F; +7.4 degrees above normal
Hibbing: 16.3 F; +4.7 degrees above normal

It’s been an odd La Nina up to this point, with the pattern since November resembling an El Nino more than what a typical La Nina pattern would look like.

The next big storm will pass well south of the Northland as it tracks from northern Mexico to western Ohio through Saturday morning (orange line on map) while another strong low nearing the Pacific northwest this afternoon weakens as it heads east.

Water vapor loop from Wednesday, December 29, 2020 (loop time 3:06 PM to 4:01 PM CT)

Source: https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/

Another winter storm is about to hit the Southern and Central Plains over the next 24-36 hours with heavy snow and significant amounts of ice.

The New Year’s Eve storm could also produce some severe weather in parts of southeast Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama with an Enhanced (orange) and Slight (yellow) risk for Severe Thunderstorms on Thursday.

All modes of severe weather are possible Thursday, including damaging winds, tornadoes and large hail.

Source: https://weathermodels.com/

Parts of west Texas could see more than a foot of snow by Friday morning.


Snow tonight into early Wednesday morning; mainly dry Wednesday afternoon through the weekend

Still looks like a widespread 2 to 4 inch snowfall across the Northland tonight into Wednesday morning. Note: Isolated 5 inch totals are possible anywhere in the 2-4″ zones, but I don’t think the 5″ totals will be very common in our area.

Roads are completely (pink areas) or partially (blue areas) covered with snow in west-central and southern Minnesota as of 3:55 PM Tuesday, and these conditions will spread further northeast through the evening. Plan on a slippery Wednesday morning commute across the Northland.

Source: https://511mn.org/ (Minnesota Road Conditions); https://511wi.gov/ (Wisconsin Road Conditions)

Snow (blue colors on animation below) will continue to overspread the Northland from SW-NE this evening with snow ending from W-E from early to mid-morning Wednesday.

Note: Snow is expected to begin in Duluth and Superior around 6-7 PM tonight, and will taper off to light snow and flurries around 4 AM Wednesday.

20z HRRR model simulated radar forecast ending 8 AM Wednesday.

Source: https://weather.cod.edu/

Local View – Winter Weather Advisory covers most of the Northland through Wednesday morning (purple area on map)

Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

Regional View – A Winter Weather Advisory remains in effect for the purple areas on the map, while a Winter Storm Warning is in effect for the pink areas on the map.

It’s a slow process to moisten up the atmosphere when you have an arctic air mass in place, but this really isn’t unusual at all, but with broad southerly winds occurring on the backside of high pressure over Ohio and out ahead of a broad area of low pressure approaching from the west, this will continue to advect deeper moisture northward into our area tonight.

The real rich moisture currently over the Central Plains (greens on map) won’t make it this far north, instead will just get a little moisture which continues to push NE out of eastern South Dakota and southwest Minnesota this afternoon.


There is another storm for late this week, but the storm track remains too far SE of our area to give us any trouble. You can thank the split flow on keeping this late week storm to our SE as energy in the northern stream heads east just in time which helps deflect the strong system lifting N-NE out of Texas.

18z NAM model 500mb forecast shown below (6 PM Thursday to 6 PM Friday)

Source: https://weather.cod.edu/

A generally mild temperature forecast for Duluth through late next week. No subzero temps in this 10 day forecast which takes us to January 8, now if skies are clear and winds are light, we could get close to 0 or perhaps slightly below 0 Thursday morning and again Friday morning, but those look like the only days where we could get close to or a little below zero in Duluth.

Source: https://weathermodels.com/

Low Temperature Reports from Tuesday morning, December 29, 2020
Source: https://www.weather.gov/dlh/

Hibbing, MN: -25 F
Eveleth-Virginia Airport: -25 F
Ely, MN: -24 F
Cotton, MN: -24 F
Hill City, MN: -20 F
Solon Springs, WI: -20 F
Minong, WI: -20 F
2 ENE Oliver, WI: -20 F
South Range, WI: -19 F
Moose Lake, MN: -19 F
Clam Lake, WI: -18 F
Danbury, WI: -18 F
Hinckley, MN: -18 F
Bigfork, MN: -18 F
Longville, MN: -18 F
Aitkin, MN: -17 F
Cook, MN: -17 F
Hayward, WI: -17 F
Saginaw, MN: -17 F
Brainerd, MN: -16 F
International Falls, MN: -16 F
Grand Rapids, MN: -15 F
Pine River, MN: -15 F
Superior Airport: -15 F
Two Harbors, MN: -15 F
Grand Marais, MN: -13 F
Hermantown, MN: -12 F
Ashland, WI: -12 F
Duluth Airport: -10 F
Duluth Sky Harbor Airport: -6 F

Note: So far this month we’ve had 5 subzero nights in Duluth, average is 9 subzero nights in December. Last December had 8 subzero nights.


Some snow on the way Tuesday afternoon-Wednesday morning – Winter Weather Advisory in effect for parts of the Northland

  • A widespread 1 to 4 inches of snow is expected across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin from Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning.
  • Snow gets going in Duluth and Superior between 4 PM-7 PM Tuesday, and ends Wednesday morning around 6-9 AM.
  • Temperatures look cold enough throughout the atmosphere for all snow and no mixed precipitation with this event. Also, this should be more of a powdery type of snow, and not the wet/slushy crap.

Winter Weather Advisories (purple) and Winter Storm Warnings (pink) are in effect on Tuesday as a low pressure system brings widespread accumulating snow to the Plains and Upper Midwest on Tuesday, with a mix of snow and even some ice further south across parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois.

Here’s my snowfall forecast for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning. Note: It’s possible we could see an isolated 5″ total across southern portions of the Northland, but the overall quick movement of this system should keep amounts mostly in the 1-4″ range.

Generally limited to minor impacts expected in the Northland with the snow event late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

Source: https://www.wpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

A cold, dry arctic air mass will remain over the Northland tonight and Tuesday morning, but as low pressure lifts farther northeast this will begin to open up the moisture tap which is streaming north out of the Southern Plains today, but we won’t get the rich moisture as that gets shunted off to our south/east Tuesday, instead will just get a glancing blow sending our PWATS from <0.10″ Tuesday morning up to around 0.25 to 0.40″ by late Tuesday afternoon.

The amount of vertical lift in the atmosphere doesn’t look particularly strong across the Northland late Tuesday into early Wednesday, but there will certainly be enough lift to produce snow, but snowfall intensity shouldn’t be very heavy with generally weak to moderate lift passing over the area from SW-NE.

18z NAM model 700mb forecast shown below (6 AM Tuesday to 6 AM Wednesday.

Source: https://weather.cod.edu/

A busy week ahead!

The system for Tuesday and Wednesday won’t be reaching its full potential as it doesn’t phase at all as the northern low remains separate from the southern low coming out of the Southern Rockies.

System for late this week looks pretty strong at the moment and could take on a negative tilt, but the storm track remains too far SE of the Northland to produce any impacts in our area on Friday, but this system could bring a quick round of heavy snow to parts of the Midwest, possibly as far north as southern/eastern Wisconsin on Friday.


Snow arrival times on Tuesday per 12z European computer model

Source: https://weathermodels.com/

Tuesday morning looks dry across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin.

Snow spreads N-NE into western/southern portions of the Northland Tuesday afternoon-early evening from around 12 PM to 6 PM.

Snow lifts farther N/NE and is forecast to encompass the entire Northland by mid to late Tuesday evening.

Some snow lingers in the Northland overnight/early Wednesday morning.

Snow should be wrapping up from W-E Wednesday morning, with all the snow gone by Wednesday afternoon the way it looks now.


Flurries/Light snow ending this evening; Cold Monday; A few inches of snow possible late Tuesday-early Wednesday

  • A reinforcing shot of cold air moves in on Monday behind a cold front which moves through the Northland tonight.
  • Subzero temps possible across northern Minnesota Monday morning, and near zero to below zero temps area-wide for Monday night. Note: Temps Monday afternoon will range from the single digits below to lower teens above zero across the Northland.
  • Lingering areas of light snow and flurries will come to an end this evening.
  • Our next shot for snow comes late Tuesday spreading from SW to NE across the Northland. Most of the snow falls Tuesday night, and then tapers off Wednesday morning the way it looks now.

Today’s system didn’t phase at all, as one piece of energy continues to dive SE out of North Dakota while a more organized system heads ENE out of Iowa.

Water vapor loop from Sunday, December 27, 2020 (loop time 2:06 PM to 4:01 PM CT)

Source: https://www.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/

Here’s a look at the system which is forecast to bring at least a bit of snow to the Northland from late Tuesday into Wednesday (black circled area on animation below)

Loop time 2:16 PM to 4:11 PM CT, Sunday, December 27, 2020.

The system moving ashore into California over the next 12-18 hours is forecast to split into two, with one piece of energy moving NE out of the Rockies Tuesday and Wednesday, while a stronger piece of energy digs SE into the Southern Plains around midweek, and then will see that feature lift NE toward the Southern/Eastern Great Lakes region late this week.

Here’s what I have for snowfall amounts for the midweek event.

2-4″ for east-central Minnesota and all of northwest Wisconsin including for Duluth and Superior, and generally 1-2″ across the north. Note: Amounts/gradients could change/shift a bit over the next 24 hours.

This snow event looks to be driven mostly by warm air advection as a broad southerly flow develops east of an approaching trough and area of low pressure. At the moment it looks like this system will remain progressive enough which should help keep snow amounts <6″ in our area, in fact I think it might be difficult to even get more than 3-4″ out of this system, but will see.

…Timing of when the snow begins on Tuesday…

3 to 6 PM along a Bigfork to Siren line.

6-9 PM for the Iron Range, most of the North Shore and all of northwest Wisconsin.

After 9 PM along the Borderland and Arrowhead.

Note: Snow is forecast to reach Duluth and Superior around 6-9 PM on Tuesday the way it looks now.