I’m talking about temperature, folks! A lot of my social media feed for the last couple of days has been related to one or more cold outbreaks that could affect the United States over the next couple of weeks or even into January. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center even posted an infographic about the first one, shown below. When you look at the image, you will see that the Southeast is right on the edge of the coldest air, with a lot of uncertainty about how far south the really cold air will get and exactly how cold it will be. Northern parts of our region are the most likely to experience the wintry temperatures, while Florida could even be above normal. In between, we really don’t know yet, but it is winter and so sooner or later cold air is likely to come, even in a La Nina. Anything that is more than a week out is just showing the general pattern and you cannot trust the forecasts to give you believable actual temperatures, no matter how many times someone posts a map on Twitter.
For the next couple of weeks and to the end of the year, we can expect some cold over the next few days following the big rain event that will move through our area Wednesday and Thursday. It looks like even colder temperatures are likely over Christmas for a lot of the country, although in the Southeast, again we don’t really know yet exactly how low those temperatures will be. I think it is likely that freezing temperatures will get down into Florida in the second outbreak. This is different than last year when parts of southern Georgia did not see a freeze until well into January. This is good news for farmers there, because if it happens it will kill off a lot of pests and the vegetation that harbors them.
Looking farther ahead, there are some signs that a Sudden Stratospheric Warming (SSW) is starting to occur over the North Pole. The last time that happened in 2021, Texas had a huge cold outbreak with significant impacts in February. That means there is a good chance of the polar vortex weakening and bringing cold air to someone depending on how it shapes up. All we can really say at this time is if the SSW occurs, we are likely to see impacts in about mid-January, since it usually takes about 30 days for the vortex to react. Someone is likely to get cold then, but it could be Texas again, or it could be Europe, or somewhere else entirely. That includes us, but since this is no more than wild speculation at this point, keep watching your local forecasts for more updated information. As you get closer to real-time, the forecasts will be better and you will have more detailed predictions about the timing for when the coldest air will come and how cold it will really get.
Will we get snow? Well, that depends on the weather. Snow is tricky to predict because it depends on the depth of the cold air, when and where that air goes, whether there is moisture at the same time to produce the snow, and whether or not you wish hard enough (just kidding about that last part!). I think it is likely that some people in the Southeast will see snow, especially at more northern locations and higher elevations, but when and where that will occur is too soon to know. All I will say is that the pattern is promising for someone to see some flakes.