Metro Detroit weather: A ray of hope for a white Christmas

Bitter cold Arctic air approaches


DETROIT – The evolving weather pattern as we head into Christmas weekend continues to be a complicated one. The computer models are handling quite well the large scale upper level trough that will dive down across the Great Lakes region with some bitter cold Arctic air.

However, the smaller-scale upper level disturbances within that trough (and those are what dictate the strength and positioning of our surface low pressure areas) are being handled very differently by the models today -- the differences are striking -- and that weighs heavily into whether or not we’ll get that White Christmas. More on this later.

First, tonight will be a quite night, with skies becoming mostly cloudy.  Lows in the low 20s (-5 degrees Celsius), with calm air.

Mostly cloudy on Thursday, with highs in the mid 30s (1 to 2 degrees Celsius).  East wind at 4 to 8 mph.

Thursday’s sunrise is at 7:59 a.m., and Thursday’s sunset is at 5:04 p.m.

Cloudy Thursday night, with a few light rain or snow showers dotting the area.  Lows in the low 30s (-1 to 0 degrees Celsius).

Thursday night looks somewhat interesting for those of you in the north.  A stripe of snow will race across the central Lower Peninsula, with our high-resolution in-house RPM model keeping that snow around Saginaw and north of there.

However, some other models bring it down to I-69.   The Local4Casters will monitor this and update you tomorrow on Local 4 News and here on ClickOnDetroit.com.  For the rest of us, a few light rain or snow showers are possible, with lows again in the low 30s (-1 to 0 degrees Celsius).

The Friday storm system I’ve been telling you about all week is still not agreed upon by the computer models, but indications are that it will pass by without too much fuss, perhaps a scattered, light rain shower. Highs in the upper 30s (4 degrees Celsius).

Cloudy Friday night, with lows in the low 30s (-1 degree Celsius).

Saturday looks to be mostly cloudy and mostly dry, with highs in the mid 30s (2 degrees Celsius). The weather shouldn’t pose any problems getting to your Festivus celebrations.  Good luck with airing your grievances and with your feats of strength!  If you don’t know what Festivus is, I strongly suggest finding it on You Tube!

Mostly cloudy Saturday night, with lows in the low 20s (-6 to -5 degrees Celsius).

Sunday’s daylight hours look dry with no problems getting to Christmas Eve dinner.  Highs will be colder…only in the mid 20s (-3 degrees Celsius).

It’s Sunday night where things get interesting.  At the same time that a low pressure area will get organized in Alabama and then move northeastward up the Appalachians,  an upper level disturbance will be streaking across the central plains in our general direction.

One model (the ECMWF) phases this disturbance with the low pressure area, which forms a stronger low that then spreads the northwestern part of its snow shield right over us with accumulating snow.  Imagine that…snow on Christmas Eve night giving us a White Christmas to wake up to Monday morning.

But wait, the GFS model handles things differently, and barely gives us a dusting Sunday night. Given that the upper level disturbance is just now coming out of the Gulf of Alaska toward the continent, it won’t be for another twenty-four or thirty-six hours before our inland upper air weather balloon network will be able to directly assess its physics, which will greatly improve the computer models’ handling of it. Stay tuned!

Regardless of how much snow we get Sunday night, Christmas Day will be windy and bitterly cold. Lake effect snow showers can possibly make it across the state, but the big deal will be wind chills.

Even though highs will be in the low 20s (-6 to-5 degrees Celsius), the wind will make it feel like 0 degrees (-17 degrees Celsius) on your exposed skin. The cold weather will stick around for the rest of next week.

If it’s too cold for the kids to play outside (or there’s not enough snow to play in), there are a LOT of things to do with them on their holiday break from school. If they’re into science, try the Michigan Science Center, the Cranbrook Institute of Science, or the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum…all promise a great time.

There’s the Detroit Historical Museum to give them a taste of Detroit history. There’s the Detroit Institute of Arts - so much to see and do there (and remember that it’s more than “just” paintings…they have medieval suits of armor, ancient Egyptian artifacts, and all sorts of neat stuff).

If they’re into music, how about taking them to the Motown Museum for some Detroit music history?  And check the Pistons and Red Wings schedules, Little Caesars Arena is a great place to watch a game. And while you’re downtown, take them on the new Q-Line!

Christmas national travel weather

Here are the updated ECMWF model forecasts for Christmas travel around the nation.  If you skipped my article above and went straight to these maps, I urge you to read my discussion about the Sunday night weather.  What you are seeing below is just one model’s solution – another major model disagrees.  It won’t be for another day or two before we start developing any confidence in the Christmas Eve forecast.


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