White Christmas Comes Down To The Wire

”Grandpa, tell me again about a time when we had white Christmases in Minnesota? And… what’s a snow plow?” Conversations I hope to never have. Odds are Canada won’t run out of cold fronts – and many winters will be snowy going forward, but snow consistently on the ground – even in Minnesota – is no longer a foregone conclusion.

Welcome to Meteorological Limbo. It’s getting dry out there. Our snow drought limps on while outrageous amounts of snow smother the east coast.

December temperatures in the Twin Cities are running 8F warmer than usual, but at some point the balloon will pop and a cold, North Woods reality will set in. Models show sharply colder air just in time for Christmas; daytime highs late next week may hold in the teens. The approach of this (brief) pop of Nanook air may set off a period of accumulating snow late Tuesday, especially south of MSP, so a white Christmas isn’t entirely out of the question yet.

Ponder a profound quote from Dumb and Dumber: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” Um, yes.

12KM NAM Future Radar
NOAA and Tropical Tidbits.com

Few Snow Showers Late Friday? Another anemic clipper pushes a band of snow showers across the state late Friday, possibly mixed with a little rain.

Temperatures Trend Above Average Into Tuesday. Quiet, drama-free weather spills into early next week with daytime highs anywhere from 5-15F above average the next 6 days. Amazing.

NOAA and WeatherBell

Christmas Chill. A white Christmas is in doubt, but at least there’s a chance of some snow next Tuesday-Wednesday ahead of a noticeable shot of Canadian air just in time for Christmas. Highs hold in single digits and teens by the end of next week with some moderation expected the last week of 2020.

The Edge of Numb. Moderately cold air lurks just to our north by the end of December, each inevitable Alberta Clipper bringing chunks of that chilly air south of the border. Will a mild, Pacific signal spill into January or are our relatively mild days numbered with a swing to much colder weather as we enter 2021. I suspect January will live up to its reputation.

Praedictix Briefing: Wednesday, December 16th, 2020

Snow And Ice Already Starting In The Eastern US. This morning we are tracking an area of low pressure in the eastern United States that is already bringing snow and ice from the Ohio River Valley to the Mid-Atlantic this morning. Up to a tenth of an inch of ice has been reports in portions of western North Carolina, including Jonas Ridge and near Hickory. Meanwhile, 3.5” of snow has been reported in Tipton, IN.

Timing Precipitation. As the area of low pressure responsible for the snow and ice eventually moves off the Mid-Atlantic coast and south of Long Island, snow (and, in some areas, ice) will move northward today into tonight into the Northeast. Some of this snow, particularly tonight, will be heavy at times, with snowfall rates of at least 1-2” per hour.

Winter Storm Alerts. Due to the snow and, in some cases, ice expected with this nor’easter, numerous Winter Storm Warnings and Winter Weather Advisories stretch from northern Georgia and the Ohio River Valley into New England. Here are just some of the locations under winter weather alerts this morning:

  • Cincinnati, OH: Winter Weather Advisory through Noon today for up to 1” of snow and a glaze of ice.
  • Asheville, NC: Winter Weather Advisory through Noon today for total ice up to 0.1” and a coating of sleet.
  • Greensboro, NC: Winter Weather Advisory through 4 PM today for up to 0.1” of ice.
  • Roanoke, VA: Winter Storm Warning through Midnight tonight for 3-7” of snow/sleet and up to 0.2” of ice.
  • Charleston, WV: Winter Weather Advisory through 4 AM Thursday for up to 1” of snow and 0.1” of ice.
  • Washington, D.C. and Baltimore: Winter Weather Advisory from 10 AM today to 1 PM Thursday for 1-2” of snow/sleet and 0.1” of ice.
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Winter Storm Warning through 7 AM Thursday for 6-9” of snow.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Winter Storm Warning from Noon today through 10 AM Thursday for 6-12” of snow and winds to 40 mph.
  • Scranton, PA: Winter Storm Warning from 1 PM today to 10 AM Thursday for 12-18” of snow.
  • New York City: Winter Storm Warning from 2 PM today to 1 PM Thursday for 10-13” of snow and winds to 45 mph.
  • Hartford, CT: Winter Storm Warning from 7 PM today to 1 PM Thursday for 11-15” of snow.
  • Providence, RI: Winter Storm Warning from 7 PM today to 1 PM Thursday for 9-12” of snow and winds to 40 mph.
  • Boston, MA: Winter Storm Warning from 7 PM today to 1 PM Thursday for 9-12” of snow and winds to 40 mph.
  • Portland, ME: Winter Storm Warning from 10 PM today to 4 PM Thursday for 6-10” of snow and winds to 35 mph.

Winter Storm Severity Index. The Winter Storm Severity Index, a product from the Weather Prediction Center, attempts to project what types of impacts this system could have across portions of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. We can see a wide area of major to extreme impacts across the region, with could cause property damage, including tree limbs falling. This also includes disruptions to daily life, including power outages which could impact properties or employees working from home, and difficult/impossible travel conditions.

Expected Ice. I’m going to start off with the ice totals, as this is expected to fall today across portions of the Mid-Atlantic states. Across portions of the region, up to a quarter inch of ice could accumulation, leading to tree damage and power outages.

Snowfall Amounts. As the precipitation lifts northward with the area of low pressure today into tonight, heavy snow is expected to expand across portions of the Mid-Atlantic into the Northeast. The heaviest snowfall amounts are expected across central Pennsylvania, where up to two feet of snow could fall through Thursday. This will lead to major (potentially impossible) travel conditions across the region as well as some power outages. Heavy snow is also expected in New York City and Boston, with totals of at least 9” expected. Areas like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and D.C. along I-95 are likely to see a wintry mix at times throughout the storm, cutting down on the snow totals.

Washington D.C. Area Breakdown. In Washington D.C., snow is possible this morning before changing over to a mix or all rain this afternoon. That’ll last through the evening hours before changing back over to snow overnight, ending early Thursday morning. This will lead to decreased snow totals in Washington D.C. and Baltimore, with only an inch or two of snow accumulation possible. Farther to the northwest, we’ll see all snow fall, with the potential of at least a foot of snow for areas like Winchester, Hagerstown, and Cumberland.

Philadelphia Office of the National Weather Service

Philadelphia Breakdown. Philadelphia is also expected to ride that wintry mix line during the storm, with a sharp snow/sleet accumulation gradient expected to set up near the city. In Philadelphia, expect a mix of snow, sleet, and rain at times from late today through early Thursday morning, with most of the snow and sleet accumulation expected to occur tonight. As with the Washington D.C. area, heavy snow amounts are expected to the northwest of that wintry mix line, with the potential of a foot and a half of snow from south-central Pennsylvania up through areas like Harrisburg, Williamsport, Mount Pocono, and Scranton.

New York City Breakdown. Much of the New York City region will see between 8-18” of snow. Snow is expected to start in New York City during the second half of the afternoon today, lasting into the morning hours Thursday. The heaviest snow is expected to fall tonight, with 1-2” per hour possible. Farther out on Long Island, a wintry mix could occur at times, helping to reduce snow totals a touch. Blizzard-like conditions are also expected, with wind gusts up to 50 mph in some areas.

Boston Office of the National Weather Service

Boston Breakdown. Heavy snow is expected to start this evening in Boston, lasting into the afternoon hours Thursday. The heaviest is expected to fall tonight into early Thursday morning, with 1-2” per hour rates possible. Strong winds are also expected, especially in Cape Cod where winds could gust up to 60 mph.

Strong Winds. This system will also produce strong winds, especially near and along the coast, today into Thursday. In some coastal areas, wind gusts up to 60 mph will be possible. This will likely lead to power outages across the region.

Flooding Concerns. We are also watching flooding concerns with this strong nor’easter. We could see moderate coastal flooding in some locations, particularly at high tide this evening and Thursday morning. This would case roadway and low-lying properties to flood. Flood Watches are also in place around D.C. as rainfall amounts of 1-2” are possible which, in combination with already saturated conditions across the region, could lead to at least isolated flooding.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

Hurricane Hunters
U.S. Air Force

Winter Storm Hunters: How Hurricane Hunters Help During the Off Season. Spectrum News 1 has a timely story about the Hurricane Hunter aircraft and how they are deployed for major winter storms as well: “…Hurricane Hunters are aircraft that fly into storms and take measurements like wind speed and atmospheric pressure. This data is inputed into weather models and helps to make forecasts for hurricanes and other storms more accurate. Some of the aircraft only record weather information from sensors on board the plane, while other release dropwindsondes. Dropwindsondes are small packages that have weather sensors on board. They report atmospheric conditions as they fall to earth. They are used mainly in sparsely populated areas. like the ocean. This information can play a big role in helping forecasters figure where a storm will go or how strong it could become…”

Man-made Objects Now Weight More Than All Living Things on Earth. Big Think puts that headline into perspective; here’s a summary of findings: “The study compared estimates of the planet’s total biomass (the mass of all living things) with anthropogenic mass, which includes all human-made materials. Every year, humans are bringing materials into the world at a higher rate. Concrete is the single biggest contributor to anthropogenic mass and it’s a major source of greenhouse-gas emissions, suggesting that finding more sustainable alternatives could help curb climate change...”

29 F. high in the Twin Cities Wednesday.

27 F. average high on December 16.

27 F. high on December 16, 2019.

December 17, 1996: 20 to 40 mph winds combined with recent snowfall produce blizzard like conditions for about a 36 hour period over much of the area. Whiteout conditions are common in rural and open areas. Every county road in Yellow Medicine county was impassable by the morning of the 18th. Travelers heading west were stranded in Clara City as plows were pulled off the road. Wind chills were as low as 60 degrees below zero.

December 17, 1946: Heavy snow is reported along with strong wind across northern Minnesota. Duluth has winds up to 62 mph.

THURSDAY: Early flakes, some PM sun. Winds: SE: 5-10. High: 33

FRIDAY: Mostly cloudy, flakes up north. Winds: S 10-20. Wake-up: 24. High: near 40

SATURDAY: Plenty of sunshine. Winds: NW 5-10. Wake-up: 18. High: near 30

SUNDAY: Clouds increase, late rain/snow shower. Winds: SW 15-25. Wake-up: 25. High: 40

MONDAY: Partly sunny, windy and mild. Winds: NW 15-30. Wake-up: 36. High: 42

TUESDAY: Chance of snow (southern MN) Winds: W 5-10. Wake-up: 26. High: 34

WEDNESDAY: Cold winds, coating of flurries? Winds: NW 15-25. Wake-up: 16. High: 23

Climate Stories…

Biden to Name Gina McCarthy, Fomer EPA Chief, as White House Climate Coordinator. The New York Times (paywall) reports: “President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. is expected to pick Gina McCarthy, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Barack Obama and the architect of some of his most far-reaching regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions, to serve as senior White House adviser on climate change, according to three people close to the Biden transition team. As White House adviser, Ms. McCarthy will coordinate domestic climate policies across the United States government, playing a central role in helping Mr. Biden make good on his campaign promise of putting the United States on track to reach carbon neutrality before 2050...”

Planetary Warming Over Time
Ed Hawkins and Climate Central

“Stripes” Tell the Climate Story. Climate Central has a post that shows warming over the years, worldwide and over the arctic: “…In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, Climate Central would like to share with you Ed Hawkins’ warming stripes—with a holiday-themed twist! The original red & blue visual depicts the annual temperature anomalies (the differences from the long-term average) from 1850 to 2019—and quickly became an iconic symbol in the climate change community. The blue stripes represent temperatures lower than average and red, above. But for our holiday edition, we present the stripes in festive red and green. In our first graphic, Santa, you can see the holiday-themed global warming stripes. Progressing from green to a sharp burst of red, the stripes depict unprecedented warming of global temperatures over the past 170 years. This warming is primarily a result of years of burning fossil fuels and accumulating carbon dioxide along with other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Although we display these stripes in festive colors, this is not something to be jolly about…”

Arctic Warming Over Time
Ed Hawkins and Climate Central


The Big Thaw: How Russia Could Dominate a Warming World. Here’s an excerpt from a ProPublica post that caught my eye: “…A great transformation is underway in the eastern half of Russia. For centuries the vast majority of the land has been impossible to farm; only the southernmost stretches along the Chinese and Mongolian borders, including around Dimitrovo, have been temperate enough to offer workable soil. But as the climate has begun to warm, the land — and the prospect for cultivating it — has begun to improve. Twenty years ago, Dima says, the spring thaw came in May, but now the ground is bare by April; rainstorms now come stronger and wetter. Across Eastern Russia, wild forests, swamps and grasslands are slowly being transformed into orderly grids of soybeans, corn and wheat. It’s a process that is likely to accelerate: Russia hopes to seize on the warming temperatures and longer growing seasons brought by climate change to refashion itself as one of the planet’s largest producers of food...”


Attitudes About Climate Change are Changing, Even in Texas. ScienceDaily reports: “Longstanding skepticism among Texans toward the climate movement has shifted, and attitudes in the nation’s leading energy-producing state now mirror those in the rest of the United States. About 80% of Americans — almost 81% of Texans — say they believe climate change is happening, according to new research by UH Energy and the University of Houston Hobby School of Public Affairs. Slightly lower percentages said they believe the change is driven by human activities. Most said they are willing to pay more for electricity derived from natural gas produced without venting and flaring, electricity derived from renewable generation that factors in the cost of the grid, and low-carbon or carbon-neutral transportation fuels and other energy products…”


Should U.S. Shale Producers Be Worried? CNBC.com tackles that question: “ American shale producers are likely being kept up at night over what could be in store for their industry over the next four years, if pledges made by some lawmakers in Congress and President-elect Joe Biden are anything to go by. U.S. Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette seems to think so. Asked by CNBC’s Hadley Gamble whether shale producers, whose drilling boom catapulted America to the position of the world’s largest oil producer in 2018, should be worried about the incoming administration, Brouillette replied, “Of course.” “I think they should be, frankly, because there are some in Congress who are going to drive a climate policy that’s going to be very aggressive…”