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  • Tim McGill

Christmas Forecast Coming More Into Focus

Becoming Blustery Today


Today will be our sixth day in a row with highs in the 30s. That is the coldest stretch of weather since February. What will make matters worse today is some gusty winds. Winds this afternoon will gust up to 30 mph. So while actual high temperatures will be in the middle 30s, at or a bit above average, it will feel more like the teens and twenties today.


Even with the colder temperatures of the past couple of days we are still running more than 5° above average for December. Highs will be above average this weekend and through Wednesday next week. Look for a dramatic drop in temperatures Wednesday night. Christmas Eve and Christmas will be the coldest days of the season so far and coldest back to back days since February of 2019. Afternoon highs may struggle to get out of the teens on Christmas Eve and climb into the 20s on Christmas Day.





Some Sticking Snow Possible


The GFS model still suggests a more active pattern between now and Christmas. Our first system that arrives early Saturday morning will be mainly light rain. A few flakes mixing in can't be ruled out but drizzle and light rain will be the primary type of precipitation. Another system on Monday could squeeze out some light accumulating snow. As we warm during the day on Monday the snow will probably change to light rain. Last but not least, late Wednesday into Christmas Eve there is a chance for some light rain mixing with and changing to snow.


The GFS model's precipitation meteogram shows the timing for the next few systems.


None of these systems by themselves will be big snow makers but collectively we could see a couple of inches in total between now and Christmas. The three systems are shown on the meteogram below.





So I'm Saying There's A Chance


While a white Christmas this year is certainly a possibility, it isn't a sure thing.


I want to isolate the first two systems and look at their total snowfall accumulation forecast and then look at the Christmas Eve system.


The latest GFS model forecast for snowfall accumulation through Tuesday spits out a dusting to nearly an inch in total.

The European model accumulated snowfall forecast for the same period squeezes out less snow. It suggests a dusting to maybe a couple tenths of an inch in total between Saturday's system and the second system arriving on Monday.


It gets a bit more interesting when we include the system that may be coming late next Wednesday and continuing into early Christmas Eve day.


The GFS model adds another inch and a half to nearly two inches to the grand totals. Keep in mind with temperatures well above freezing early next week that the snow from our first two systems will probably have melted by next Wednesday. Still, the GFS is squeezing out a couple of inches for this last system, enough to give us a white Christmas.


The European model's forecast leans more towards a glass that is half empty forecast for snowfall lovers. It does not squeeze out any additional snow with this last system. The snow that it shows would be from the first two systems only and would have melted by Christmas day.


ECMWF Total Snowfall Accumulation Forecast Through 12/25 (Pivotal Weather)

So without model consensus, the confidence in the snowfall forecasts is still low. However, the GFS has been trending towards some sticking snow with the Wednesday/Christmas Eve system and if this trend continues and the European model starts to squeeze out some snow, then the odds of a white Christmas will be going up. Stay tuned. It definitely looks cold enough for snow by Christmas day but it is a question of moisture availability.


One thing is for certain when it comes to snow this season is that we haven't seen much. We are now about five inches below average so far for the snowfall season. A map of season snowfall accumulation so far shows a "hole" centered right over Chicago. Almost all of Oklahoma and the entire Texas Panhandle has seen more snow than us.





From About Average To Above


The longer range temperature probabilities forecasts have us outlooked for moving from about average to above average by the end of the month. The 6-10 day temperature probability forecast has us above about overall from December 23rd through December 27th. The longer range 8-14 day forecast has us outlooked for above average temperatures overall from December 25th through the end of 2020. The eastern third of the country is the only part that is forecast to be below average overall through these two periods.





Relatively Dry Through End Of December


The longer range precipitation forecasts still has an expanding area of the country with fairly high probabilities of below average precipitation for the end of the month. The 6-10 day forecast from December 23rd through December 27th has us outlooked for below average precipitation overall. The 8-14 day forecast from December 25th through December 31st also has us outlooked for below average precipitation overall with only a small portion of the country (Pacific Northwest & New England) outlooked for above average precipitation.







Here is my 7 day forecast:


Today: Becoming mostly cloudy, blustery High: 37

Saturday: Cloudy, drizzle & light rain Low: 33 High: 39

Sunday: Partly to mostly cloudy Low: 28 High: 40


Monday: Light rain/snow early then light rain Low: 30 High: 40


Tuesday: Partly to mostly sunny Low: 30 High: 42


Wednesday: Becoming cloudy, light rain/snow late Low: 35 High: 43

Thursday: Partly to mostly sunny, blustery & cold High: 28 early but falling into the teens


#ilwx

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