Tricky pattern faces forecasters for Christmas

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, December 19, 2017

By Skip Rigney

Everyone wants to know what the weather will be Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Families who are planning large gatherings are wondering whether children will be able to play outside or whether rain will coop up everyone inside. Others are hoping for some “real” Christmas weather, by which they mean weather that’s more like Vermont than Mississippi. Unfortunately for those who want some certainty about the weather this weekend and early next week, the current atmospheric pattern, and the way it is evolving, is causing forecasters to have less confidence than usual in their predictions going out beyond four days.

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They have a great deal of confidence that temperatures for the rest of this work week will be much warmer than the averages for this time of year, which range from low 40s for average minimums to low to middle 60s for average maximums.

Instead, highs will be in the low to middle 70s through Friday.

One atmospheric disturbance pushes across the Gulf South today, tonight, and tomorrow. Our best chance of rain will be tonight and Wednesday morning.

There may even be some thunderstorms mixed in.

Thursday should be the nicest day this week as that first disturbance moves to our east.

There’s a good chance that the Chamber of Commerce will want to bottle Thursday’s weather as skies are forecast to be mostly sunny with temperatures climbing from near 50 in the morning to the low 70s in the afternoon.

However, by Friday a cold front will stretch from low pressure in the Great Lakes southeastward through Texas to another low pressure center in northern Mexico.

Southerly winds ahead of the front will bring moisture into our region from the Gulf of Mexico, and we will likely have showers on Friday, and especially Friday night, as the cold front approaches us.

Unfortunately, the front is predicted to stall somewhere near us over the weekend and into Christmas day.

It may even wiggle back and forth to our north and south.

When the front is to our north, we will be in a warm air mass. If and when it slides to our south, it will be noticeably cooler. High temperatures on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day could be anywhere from the 40s to the 70s depending on where the front is.

Also very uncertain at this time is whether disturbances in the jet stream above the front will give us rain over the weekend or on Christmas Day. While it does appear that there will be some periods of rain, timing when they will occur this far in advance is beyond the ability of forecasters and the weather models that they use.

Sometime between Christmas Eve and Tuesday, a reinforcing shot of colder air is predicted to sweep down from the north.

This could cause some icy and snowy conditions to form somewhere in the Deep South, but again, the location and timing is very uncertain.

Those who have travel plans anywhere in the South should definitely keep up on the weather as the weekend approaches.

By then, forecasters should have a better handle on this tricky, unsettled pattern.