Sunday, December 27, 2020

Wet weather to finish out 2020, details on winter weather potential

Following a very cold Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (the coldest Christmas in Memphis in 20 years actually!), the weekend has proven to be just delightful. After topping out just above freezing Friday, we saw 20 degrees of warming Saturday, into the mid 50s, and another 10 degrees of warming today as the mercury reached the mid 60s on a strong and gusty south wind! The New Year's week forecast, though, shapes up to be rather active as the next big storm system brews to our west.

Early week tranquility

A fast-moving cold front slices through the Mid-South tonight, but with limited moisture, only scattered showers with light rainfall amounts are expected tonight. Temperatures will be back down in the 50s Monday with dry conditions but high clouds overhead and much less wind. The same general conditions are expected on Tuesday with lows above freezing and highs in the mid 50s - overall a bit above normal. Wednesday things start to get interesting...

Sunday afternoon HRRR model showing what it thinks radar may look like from 6pm to 6am tonight. Scattered light showers are most likely in the evening hours. (WeatherBell)

Strong winter storm setup

We are closely watching the next big weather maker for the Mid-South, which will move into the area on New Year's Eve. This system, as of Sunday afternoon, is still over the Pacific moving east and will move onshore late tonight.  It will then move east across the southwestern US during Monday and Tuesday, and will be located across the Southern Plains on Wednesday, with everything from thunderstorms and potential severe weather across Texas and Oklahoma, to winter weather across the Central Plains and snow all the way up to the Canadian border.

Forecasted surface features from WPC valid for Tuesday evening (NOAA/NWS)

Last few days of 2020

By Wednesday morning, the cold front will be located from the Midwest into Texas, with precipitation along and ahead of the front from Lake Michigan into Oklahoma and Texas.  During the day Wednesday, we should begin to see rain a few showers across the area as the front pushes east.  By Wednesday night into Thursday morning (New Year's Eve), rain will be ongoing as the cold front pushes into the Mid-South but stalls.  An area of low pressure will form along the cold front in Louisiana, and ride northeast along the front Thursday, moving into the Mid-South Thursday evening.  This is where things get... complicated.

Wet weather starts the New Year

Thursday evening we will see rain showers, with a few thunderstorms mainly across northern Mississippi in the more unstable and warm air.  As we ring in the New Year, rain will be moving over the region with winter weather across eastern Oklahoma, western Arkansas and southern Missouri.  The showers over the Mid-South will be tapering off towards daybreak Friday, while snow showers may be ongoing across north-central Arkansas and the Missouri Bootheel.  Total rainfall amounts from Wednesday evening thru early Friday afternoon for the Mid-South will be 2 to 3 inches, with isolated amounts of 4 inches. Yeah, it'll be a soaker!

European model surface map when the guitar drops on Beale Street - 12am Friday (PivotalWeather)

Questions and concerns

At this point, we cannot rule out the potential for snow showers across portions of the Mid-South Thursday night or early Friday, with little to no accumulation.  However, the low is forecasted by most models to stay just to our west in Arkansas as it pushes northeast, keeping the cold air and winter weather potential to our west on the "backside" of the low.  The main complication will be if the front moves thru quicker than forecasted, which would bring that winter weather in Arkansas closer to the Mid-South.  This scenario seems to be less likely, at least at this time. (You all know that forecasting winter weather 4-5 days in advance though can be a little tricky! Don't give up hope just yet!)

Clearing out on Friday
By noon on Friday, rain should be well out of the area, with decreasing clouds, breezy southwest winds and temps in the mid 40's.  The weekend looks dry, with highs in the mid to upper 40's, and lows in the upper 20's - not far from average for the first of January. So if you're looking for snow to ring in the new year, you will be better off traveling to the Ozarks!

Richard Hoseney
MWN Meteorologist

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