DAYS 1-5 (DECEMBER 23-27)
I know everyone is eager about the Christmas storm threat, but first we have something much more important in progress and that is an icing event for much of the region, save for a few immediate coastal areas and especially Cape Cod where temperatures remain above freezing. As of late morning, temperatures ranged from the upper 20s to very low 30s over the vast majority of the region to the middle and upper 30s along the immediate shoreline to the south of Boston and the lower to middle 40s over Cape Cod. A classic cold air damming situation is ongoing in which the cold air is trapped at the lower levels, most stubbornly over inland valleys. It’s easier to scour out this air, or prevent it from settling in, on Cape Cod, surrounded by water and where even a northwest wind, which keeps ocean influence away, is still able to bring modified ocean air in there. Very gradually the milder air will eat away at the cold, but it is going to take all day for a good part of the region to go above freezing, and some valleys may never even make it that far. The biggest push of “warm air”, in a relative sense, will take place this evening as we rid ourselves of the influence of the series of low pressure waves along the stuck frontal boundary and push a main cold front through from the west. The wind will attempt to turn southwest for a very brief time ahead of this but some of it may still ride up over dense cold air trapped at the surface (valleys most vulnerable, not to sound like a tape loop). During the day, episodes of rain/drizzle will be ongoing, with icing in all areas below freezing, with this area gradually shrinking as the temperature creeps up. A last round of moderate to heavy rain showers and even possible thunder may accompany the main cold front. And then… all of that exits and sets up what will be a rather pleasant Christmas Eve Day on Sunday by late December standards. It should climb above freezing pretty much everywhere, though not by more than about ten degrees maximum. This will be the best opportunity to get rid of the ice and snow/ice layer where it exists, but use caution as a temperature above freezing does not automatically eliminate slippery ground where ice exists. Now, to the next event. Models will be fine-tuning the details and yes, there will be a rain/snow line involved since we’re not going to be in air that is cold enough to guarantee a region-wide snow event from start to finish. The low track will be critical. Some short range guidance has it tracking over southeastern MA, which I think may be a bit too far northwest. My reasoning for this is a colder land mass than the model will “know of” and also that I believe it is over-forecasting the strengthen of the westernmost of 2 low pressure areas. This may look like a small model error if the thought process is correct, but could make the difference by 10 to 20 miles in a rain/snow line, which is significant when it comes to local impact. Also, there are solid signs of a rapid intensification of low pressure as it passes the region. It will be moving rather quickly, so it will not be a long-duration event, but it may end with a hard hit of snow for an hour or 2, even in areas that start out as rain. Can’t rule out hearing thunder in a situation such as this. But what about that rain/snow line? I think when precipitation arrives from southwest to northeast between 10PM and 2AM it will be in the form of rain along and southeast of a line from about Boston through central RI to southeastern CT, mix just northwest of this line, and snow beyond that. This line may waver around for several hours, but the progressive nature of the system and its rapid intensification will likely pull the rain/snow line eastward so Boston and Providence are snowing by or shortly after sunrise, it remains snow everywhere northwest of there, and turns to snow from west to east in the areas that it has been raining prior to the entire area exiting the region southwest to northeast by late morning. With this, I’d expect snow accumulations of 4-6 inches across north central CT, all of central to interior northeastern MA and southern NH, or basically the I-86 belt and central and northern portions of the I-495 belt, 2-4 inches along the I-95 belt including Boston and its immediate suburbs west and southwest, down through northern RI and parts of interior southeastern MA which would be closer to the 2, and then a coating to 2 inches from the South Shore through Cape Cod at the end of the event with the least amount across Cape Cod. The remainder of the day would be windy and colder with a few light snow showers around. Tuesday and Wednesday we will find ourselves immersed in a cold northwesterly fair flow delivering arctic air and presenting the chance of a few passing snow showers in otherwise mainly dry conditions. To the detailed forecast…
TODAY: Overcast. Freezing rain except rain immediate South Shore, South Coast, and Cape Cod, steadiest through midday with dangerous travel conditions, but most significant ice accretion in central MA and southwestern to south central NH where tree damage is possible. Temperatures very slowly rising to 27-34 interior, 34-40 coast, 40-46 Cape Cod. Coldest air remaining in deepest valleys. Wind light NW.
TONIGHT: Overcast evening with one more period of rain which may still freeze in deepest valleys. Slight chance of thunder during the passage of the last batch of rain. Breaking clouds overnight. Temperatures rise slightly to 32-37 interior, 38-43 coast. Wind variable to SW 5-15 MPH, shifting to NW overnight.
SUNDAY: Partly sunny. Highs 35-43. Wind NW 5-15 MPH.
SUNDAY NIGHT – CHRISTMAS EVE: Clouding over. Precipitation arriving late as rain Boston south, mix/snow elsewhere. Lows 26-34. Wind light E shifting to N.
MONDAY – CHRISTMAS DAY: Overcast through mid morning with snow except rain changing to snow southeast. A brief burst of heavy snow possible with a slight risk of thunder. See discussion above for expected snow accumulations. Breaking clouds and passing snow flurries midday and afternoon. Early-day highs 28-35 then falling temperatures. Wind N to NW increasing to 15-25 MPH with higher gusts possible.
TUESDAY: Partly cloudy and windy. Slight chance of snow showers. Lows in the 10s. Highs from the middle 20s to lower 30s.
WEDNESDAY: Partly cloudy and windy. Slight chance of snow showers. Lows from the middle 0s to lower 10s. Highs in the 20s.
DAYS 6-10 (DECEMBER 28-JANUARY 1)
Very cold with fair weather to start the period then 1 or 2 low pressure areas may impact the region with snow/mix (most likely snow). Lots of time to figure out details.
DAYS 11-15 (JANUARY 2-6)
Similar pattern, below normal temperatures, additional threat or 2 of a winter precipitation event.