Unusually warm and wet week

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 22, 2015

You don’t have to spend too many Christmases in the Gulf South before you start collecting memories that intermingle Santa and short sleeves.
Some American kids have to wait until the snow melts before they can go outside and play basketball on the new backboard and goal they get for Christmas.
In south Mississippi, not only can the kids usually play some outdoor hoops, the whole extended family can drag up lawn chairs and cheer them on.
But even for those of us who have been around long enough to know that we’re as likely to have a mild Christmas as a cold one, this week is going to seem unusually warm.
Our average high for this time of year is near 62 degrees. This week both our highs and lows will be well above that. Our daily high temperatures from now through at least Christmas Day are forecast to be in the 70s. Our overnight lows will only drop into the 60s.
To get some historical perspective, it’s helpful to look at the temperature records from Audubon Park in New Orleans. While at this time of year Picayune’s daily high temperature is usually several degrees cooler than the maximum temperature at Audubon Park, Audubon Park’s weather records go back over 100 years to 1893, much further than any other weather station in our area. That makes it ideal for looking at temperature ranges in the Gulf South.
Of all the Christmas Days going back to 1893, less than one-quarter at Audubon Park have had temperatures warmer than 70 degrees. And, less than 15 percent have been warmer than 75 degrees.
This Christmas will likely fall into the warmest 15 percent category. The record high temperature for Christmas Day at Audubon is 80 degrees. Currently forecasters are predicting a high at Audubon Park on Christmas Day of 77. Here in Picayune the forecast is for a high of 76.
We won’t be the only ones experiencing a warm Christmas. Much of the eastern USA will be well above normal.
Why? Over the eastern USA the upper winds are strongly from the southwest pumping in warm air from the Pacific.
Not only is warmth coming from the Pacific, a lot of moisture is also hitching a ride on the subtropical jet stream. Swirls within the upper flow will produce broad areas of rain intermittently throughout the week.
We could see totals of over five inches of rain from Monday through Christmas Day.
Strong to severe thunderstorms could be embedded with the rain on Wednesday.
There’s the potential for another round of thunderstorms this coming Sunday night or Monday.
Will it rain on Christmas Day? The timing of the upper level disturbances, as well as the timing of an approaching cold front, makes the precipitation forecast for Friday too tough to call this early in the week.
But regardless of whether Christmas Day turns out wet or dry or a mixture of both, this much you can count on: you’re going to need short sleeves rather than sweaters.

By Skip Rigney

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