Travel Weather and December Snow Chances

Our last White Thanksgiving came in 1989. It was followed by the coldest December of the 20th century. Tony explores the conditions that would lead to a mini-repeat.


Weekend Travel and December Cold/Snow Possibilities
The weather gods are smiling upon Eastern US travelers this Thanksgiving weekend as the early week storm that slowed air travel and fouled up car trips to grand mom’s has moved away from the US mainland.
Left behind that departed storm is a mass of seasonably chilly air which extends from the Northern Plains to the East Coast. That’s a simple way of saying there is no true arctic air left over from this week’s snowfall.
Travelers will find the going dry and cool-ish through Sunday from New England to Georgia with some showers of spray roaming Florida and the Carolina Piedmont. Even where the rain falls it will be light and transient.
In the Midwest and Great Lakes region, a few flurries or sprinkles seem to be the most the next cold front can muster.
Here’s a look at air flight delays for the rest of the weekend, courtesy of the FAA’s website. Late this Friday night there are no serious air travel delays across the US.
A look ahead to the first week of December shows no signs of the return of frigid arctic air locally like the snowy blusters that invaded on Wednesday. Instead, the bitter winds will ride the jet stream into the Western US as the new week wears on.
But a cautionary word to home and car owners; namely, recall how after the last White Thanksgiving in 1989, bitter cold air populated the East for much of the middle and end of December.
There are signs that a replay of December 1989, probably in tempered form, will visit our region by mid month.
This map from the European weather center acts as my inspiration for that notion.
Here’s how to read that map.
First find Florida and note how it is engulfed in an sea of orangey swirls. That’s warm humid air.
Now find California and the Baja. Note the circular oval with the L in the lower center of the screen. That represents still another pool of moist air for the Sonoran Desert of Arizona-California.
Next step, find the deep blues and purples on the map in the upper middle of the map. That represents a huge vortex of cold air sitting a mere 1400 miles to our due north in Ontario.
Finally note how on both ends of the North American continent there are bulges in the line pattern that are building or cresting toward the top of the page into Alaska (left side) and Greenland (upper right).
These may be the building blocks of a massive Eastern US wintry jig saw puzzle. Should the bulges on the coast get fixed into position, a series of cold, snowstorms and arctic blasts could easily set up shop for the month ahead!
An extra piece to the puzzle is the weather pattern across the pond in England and Iberia. Here’s a look at the European weather map next week.
Go to the bottom middle of the screen and find the H that sits on the Atlantic in Portugal and Spain. Now note how the circular lines that surround this part of the world bridge all the way north to Scandinavia.
To the right of this so called ridge there is a massive trough where the lines dive from top to bottom across the screen and carve out a huge crater or bowl. That’s cold and damp air that dives from the Arctic Circle to the boot of Italy. Snows will pile up under the massive trough all the way to the Alps and to southern Russia where the Olympics begin in 8 weeks in Sochi.
The role of the weather in Europe in forcing our cold and snowy spells in Appalachia is stated as such; namely, when this pattern backs up westward from Europe, it can force warm air into Greenland. And if and when that happens, an endless supply of cold air can spill south from Ontario and put our region into the deep freeze with frequent snows, as it did back in December 1989.
That's the famous toothpaste effect which I used to talk about in my first years here at WSAZ.
So I for one will be having my car winterized next week in a salute to the might of Old Man Winter. As any boy scout will tell you, it is best to be prepared!
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