Joe Lundberg

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Winter Starting Early, White Christmas Prospects Growing for Many

December 2, 2013; 10:49 AM ET

Monday, 11:30 A.M.

Christmas is suddenly but 24 days away, thanks to a Thanksgiving as late as it can be this year. With colder air in the pattern already, and a lot more to come in the days ahead, along with some storminess, the thoughts and dreams of a white Christmas are already dancing in the heads of many, particularly the snow geese amongst my weather weenie friends! It's hard to know for certain who will end up having a Christmas with at least an inch of snow on the ground, but given the pattern we're facing in the next two weeks, suffice it say there should be some level of optimism for many, particularly from the interior Northeast through the Lakes and all the way to the interior Northwest. There could well be other locations, too, but those seem to be the ones where the air will be plenty cold for a while. For the perfect dream, the best possible scenario would be for snow to fall on Christmas Day itself! That's pure ecstasy! But so long as there is a mantle of white, that will be satisfactory for the romantics amongst us.

How might we get there? Well, for starters, let's assess the current snow cover chart:

Not very impressive is it? I didn't think so. Much of the interior Northeast has a nominal snow cover, and parts of the Lakes and Upper Midwest over to North Dakota have a little snow on the ground. Outside of the mountains, no one has a deep snow pack, and that means it is somewhat vulnerable to any kind of warm up.

That should change this week. Yes, there will be some warming into Wednesday up into the Midwest and the Great Lakes, as well as across the Ohio Valley and, eventually, the Northeast. This will likely eat away at what little snow there is along the fringes of the snow cover. But then the arctic hammer gets dropped, and that will change EVERYTHING.

Bitterly cold air has been amassing in Alaska, the Yukon Territory, and the western portions of the Northwest Territories. It's now on the move through British Columbia and Alberta, pushed along by a 1052 mb high. The frigid air is now drilling into parts of Montana, as Cut Bank has slipped from around freezing at 13z to 17 degrees as of 15z. It's snowing, with winds gusting to nearly 40 miles an hour. And this is only the leading edge of the iceberg that's on the move south.

As the cold air presses south, it will also lead to a period of snow behind the front, as the winds become upslope for a time. This will help spread the snow around from Montana and parts of the interior Northwest down into the central and eastern Rockies. At the same time, low pressure will initially organize over the eastern Rockies, then head toward the Upper Midwest tomorrow night and Wednesday morning, then pass north of Lake Superior Wednesday afternoon. This, in turn, will help dump a much heavier snow on parts of the Dakotas and northern Minnesota. There will be less snow farther east, though, thanks to warm air being squeezed northward ahead that storm.

By the time we reach Thursday, an upper-level ridge will have formed over the southern Gulf of Mexico, and this will have an impact on how much of the cold air gets to the East Coast and the Southeast late this week and this weekend:

The lead storm will, by this time, be near the southeastern shores of Hudson Bay, with the cold front attached to it arcing down through the Hudson Valley back to Tennessee, then to a weaker low in south-central Texas. The big high will be moving toward northern Montana, and most of the West, the Rockies, and the Plains will be engulfed in the arctic air. Then we'll turn our attention to that wave of low pressure forming along the front in Texas. With very cold air drilling in underneath the warmth in the low levels, while moisture is streaming northeastward out ahead of that wave, the setup is there for a mixed bag of wintry precipitation - snow, sleet and freezing rain. The initial area of concern will start in northeast Texas, and run across eastern Oklahoma and southeastern Kansas into parts of Missouri.

It will then impact parts of the Ohio Valley and the interior Northeast Thursday night and Friday with a cold rain that may mix with or change to snow and ice. As the wave moves by, the low-level arctic air will fill in behind it, and lay the groundwork for the next wave to follow. That one, too, will come out of Texas and head northeastward, and may have a little more cold air to work with, meaning a potentially larger area of snow or snow and ice, stretching from parts of central and North Texas through eastern Oklahoma and maybe northwestern Arkansas, then the Ohio Valley and perhaps even to the spine of the Appalachians.

This wave will fade Saturday morning from view, but it won't be long before ANOTHER one comes into view, bringing some snow and ice potential to parts of the Ohio, the southern and eastern Great Lakes, and the interior Northeast.

And this is only through Sunday evening. That will leave us with 17 days until Christmas, and next week is looking anything but warm across much of the nation!

Are you getting up for a white Christmas? Are you excited about the prospects? Even a self-proclaimed 'warminista' such as me gets a little melancholy in the days leading up to Christmas is the prospect of having a least a little snow on or underneath the trees is dim! So, bring it on! I'm going to be tied up working most of the time, anyway, so it's not like I'll be able to take advantage of the situation should we actually get snow and keep it!

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of AccuWeather, Inc. or


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About This Blog

Joe Lundberg
Joe Lundberg, a veteran forecaster and meteorologist, covers both short and long-term U.S. weather on this blog.