Northland Winters: What's In Store?

By KBJR Manager

August 4, 2010 Updated Aug 4, 2010 at 11:47 AM CDT

Is winter changing in the Northland?

Statistics over the last ten years show winters are getting warmer - but is it a trend or just a passing phenomenon?

Shannon Murphy begins our special weather report tonight with a look at Northland winters of the past.

"We don't have the big snow storms we used to have"

Is this the truth about Minnesota winters? Has Jack Frost softened up a bit?

Heated cars and homes, and 24-hour convenience stores are luxuries that helped us tough out long Minnesota winters.

But before there were sand trucks and snow plows, storms hit hard, and many times, without warning.

One intense storm, the Armistice Day Blizzard of 1940, was a deadly whiteout, but the stories of survival will never be forgotten.

"There was one around the 11th of November, because my husband was out hunting. He was stranded."

Unprepared hunters were taken by surprise and 49 deaths were reported. 59 more vanished on the Great Lakes.

"We got seven miles out of Grand Rapids, and there were high drifts in the highway, so that's as far as we got, seven miles and we had to spend the night in the gas station."

Two feet of snow fell across Northern Minnesota trapping people in their homes for weeks.

"We just walked to where we could in our snow suits, whatever they had on... laughter..."

It was just a day before the 35th anniversary of that storm, when another legendary blizzard caused chaos in the upper Midwest.

It was the day that the waters of Lake Superior swallowed the Mighty Fitzgerald and all 29 of its crew members.

Just this year we had a parade of snowstorms that brought over 3 feet of snow and hurricane strength winds to Duluth.

It is hard to pin-point a cause of these storm events, but sometimes we can see the fingerprints.

That is what led to the investigation of La Nina.

La Nina exists when colder than normal temperatures are found along the equator between the central Pacific and South America.

Research of Northland winters during a strong La Nina shows that it causes slightly warmer and snowier conditions than normal.

This coming winter season, we will be affected by a La Nina of moderate strength which generally causes cooler than normal temperatures and more snowfall.

A weak La Nina usually has similar affects as one of moderate strength.

So the bottom line: can we expect a white Christmas this year?

Statistics over the last one hundred years give Duluth a 97% chance of seeing at least one inch of snow on the ground at Christmas time.

In Duluth, Meteorologist Shannon Murphy, the Northland's NewsCenter.

Tomorrow night we will continue our special weather report as meteorologist George Kessler discusses the changes in the Northland's climate.