Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eastern Winter Arrives Briefly, But Get Ready For Christmas "Blowtorch"

Jonathan Erdman @wxjerdman, posted
these contrasting images of the same
Buffalo neighborhood this snow-less year (top)
and after epic lake effect snows a year ago.
I woke up to winter today at my hacienda in St. Albans, at the northwestern corner of Vermont.

My place got about an inch and a half of snow yesterday and last night, and it was down around 20 degrees at dawn.  

That's nothing unusual for the middle of December, but it is odd for a December that could set all kinds of records for heat in Vermont and much of the United States and Canada.


First we'll review this current shot of mini-winter. A good chunk of the snow in New England yesterday and last night can be tied to the Great Lakes.

Lake effect snows fired up, as expected Frday and Saturday, Buffalo got a light coating of snow Friday night, making December 18 the latest first snow in that city's records, which go back to the late 1800s.

The old record for Buffalo's latest first snow was December 3, 1899.

The places that got caught in the heaviest Great Lakes snowbands really got it. Lyonsville, New York picked up 36 inches of snow, and many places in western New York picked up more than a foot.

The impressive thing about these snowbands was how far inland from the lakes they got. Usually, they just go inland a few dozen miles at most.

At last, it looked wintry, at least briefly, in
my St. Albans, Vermont yard this morning. 
Saturday's snowbands were enhanced by strong upper level winds, and a disturbance in the atmosphere -basically a weak cold front.

This weak cold front would have produced a little snow on its own, but it drew the lake effect snows into its sphere of influence and enhanced the snow in New England.

The snow band off of Lake Erie ended up going north of Albany, New York through southern Vermont and into New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

By the time the snow band got that far away from Lake Erie, the snow became very light, but still.

Another broken snow band extended a good 400 miles from Lake Huron, across Ontario, northern New York and into far northern Vermont and New Hampshire.  Sutton, Vermont reported a hefty 8.9 inches of snow from this, and Holland, Vermont got 6.5 inches. Much more than forecast, let me tell you.

Burlington, Vermont got into the act, getting its first "real" snow of the season with 1.8 inches. (0.2 inches fell one day in November, but that was a trifle.


Late last week, the National Weather Service at Burlington, in northwestern Vermont, said December, 2015  temperatures there had so far been just about normal -- for Roanoke, Virginia, which is about 730 miles south of Burlington.

Temperatures in Burlington had been continuously above freezing for 10 days straight, ending on Saturday. Though today is seasonably chilly in the Northeast, the heat is going to come back on full blast, so Burington may end the month as if everyone there had been relocated to Roanoke.

Don't worry about the "blowtorch" moniker you've been hearing about this upcoming record warm spell. It's not going to be 1,500 degrees and everything won't burn to a crisp.
High confidence of "blowtorch" near
record warmth in the East on or just
before Christmas.

The "blowtorch" refers to forecast temperature maps for around Christmas Eve, which had lots of hot reds on them in eastern North American depicted how readings will be far, far, far above normal Christmas week.

Many record highs will very likely fall from the Gulf Coast to New England, and in Ontario and Quebec, Canada.

The anticipated heat could even break a few records for hottest readings on record for the entire month of December, which would really be impressive since those monthly readings on the rare occasions the do occur, most often happen at the beginning of the month.

A cold front of Pacific origin will probably cool things off a bit on Christmas Day, but it will still be very mild across the East.

Another surge of very warm air is expected in the days after Christmas, but that will likely focus over a smaller area of the East. The Midwest will probably be cooler than the pre-Christmas heat.

All this warmth comes at a price beyond a lack of snow for skiing in the East.

This is a very stormy pattern, with strong systems barging into the West Coast from the Pacific,  raising the risk of flooding in parts of northern California, Oregon and Washington. The storms would carve out deep dips in the jet stream in the Rockies for lots more snowstorms there. (Four feet in Steamboat Springs, Colorado already over the last week or two!)

These storms will emerge into the Plains, giving snowstorms and possible blizzards to the western and northern Plains, and severe weather and flooding to parts of the Gulf Coast, Tennessee Valley and southeastern United States.

It's still hard to tease out when and how exactly these areas will get hit but expect bouts of rough weather there now through New Year's Eve.  It's already apparent a large area of eastern Texas, Louisiana and much of the rest of the Gulf Coast could get some scattered severe storms Tuesday.

The bottom line: In general, expect a mild and wild Christmas week.

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