I have a local fan who just loves winter weather. (Name withheld, but he knows who I'm talking about!) This cold weather aficionado emails me frequently during the winter months in the hope that the next batch of frigid air will come pouring out of the arctic straight down into Dixie. He watches the models and knows how to read upper air charts. So naturally, the first correspondence of the season has come along with the massive cold outbreak now just beginning over the West and Plains, eventually headed to the Great Lakes and deep into the heart of Texas.
Mid-morning temperatures Wednesday
But for us? The weather couldn't be more different. We will be threatening record highs by Friday as temperatures may hit 80º in some parts of News3's coverage area. So what in the name of Santa Claus is going on here this first week of December?
To start, the cold air has been building for some time over the Great White North. in Alaska and Canada's northernmost reaches. Just recently the delivery mechanism to send this air southward has taken shape in the form of a strong north-south jet stream. We got just a taste of this on Thanksgiving, but the jet stream has shifted so that a trough has been carved out over the West, while east of the Mississippi a strong upper ridge continues to build. That brings a fresh batch of bone-chilling air plunging west of the Rockies, but also east of the Continental Divide and into the Plains. Because of the ridge in the Southeast, the cold air is just not able to penetrate this far. At the surface, the cold and warm air are waging quite a battle, with a cold front representing the dividing line.
Many times such a dense, cold air mass will eventually reach us, as happened around Christmas 1983 and again in 1989, but that depends on later reinforcements of cold air on the way, plus a realignment of the western trough further east. It's safe to say that the surface cold front will eventually pass through Georgia, though the cold air will be greatly modified by the time it gets in here early next week as the jet stream will be in retreat back north by then.
Until then (and the timing is very uncertain at this point), enjoy these 70s! At this time of year we could easily see a reversal of the pattern, and the next arctic outbreak could be signed, sealed, and delivered straight into the Gulf. Late December may prove even more interesting.
Oh, and my cold, snowy weather-loving friend? He's a native Southerner!
Kurt Schmitz, Senior Meteorologist