Christmas cold gives way to returning warm air

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 26, 2020

By Skip Rigney

Cold air made an appearance in south Mississippi for Christmas Eve and Christmas, but it won’t stay long. Today (Saturday) begins a warming trend that will send afternoon high temperatures rebounding to near 70 degrees Monday through Wednesday of the upcoming week.

The strong cold front that passed through the region Wednesday night and early Thursday morning also brought a soaking rain. The northern half of the county picked up between 1.25 and 2.50 inches of rain, while amounts in the southern half were generally one inch or less.

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Today a ridge of high pressure several miles above the southwestern United States is headed eastward, a sign of warmer air on the move. At the surface our winds will be veering to the south, opening the door for a return of milder, more humid air.

Late December and January is prime time for heavy fog along the northern Gulf Coast, and it is possible that we may have the right setup for fog in the early mornings Sunday through Tuesday as light winds bring moist air from the Gulf into contact with ground that has cooled off significantly over the past few days.

Our next major cold front, and with it our next chance of rain, looks like it will be heading our way out of Texas on Wednesday and Thursday. The exact timing of the front and the associated rain is still somewhat uncertain, but most of the computer models calculate that by sometime Thursday, colder and drier air will overspread the state behind the front. Early morning temperatures near freezing may briefly return by Friday to kick off the New Year.

Fewer people are traveling this holiday season than in years past due to the coronavirus pandemic. For those who will be driving or flying outside of the Gulf South in the upcoming week, forecasters expect only one major storm system will produce messy winter weather.

A low pressure system will spread snow, ice, and possibly a narrow swath of near-blizzard conditions on Tuesday and Wednesday from Colorado northeastward to the Great Lakes. Cities from Denver to Omaha to Milwaukee could be affected. This is the same system that will be dragging a cold front through our area on Wednesday or Thursday.

If you were wishing for a white Christmas, you wouldn’t have had to drive but about 600 miles to see a snowy landscape. That is actually less of a drive than on many Christmases. The cold front and low pressure system that gave us a chilly Christmas dropped several inches of snow in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills, including in northeast Tennessee.

If that still seems like a paltry amount of snow, you need to head for the ski areas in the Pacific Northwest. A good choice would be the Mount Baker Ski Area in  Washington state, several hours northeast of Seattle. With over six feet already on the ground, and another foot of snow forecast today and tonight, Mount Baker should satisfy even the most avid snow lover’s hankerings.