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Shiver me timbers: Arctic blast set to arrive for Christmas

It seems our temperatures have had a mind of their own the latter half of the year. Despite the official start to winter being Thursday, temperatures have been on a roller coaster ride.

While the unusually warm temperatures can be attributed to a drought combined with winds out of the southwest, it doesn’t tell the entire picture of why we’ve seen such a variation in temperatures. As of late, the only cool down we’ve received here in Mid-Missouri is when strong cold fronts track through the area, and even then the cold is short-lived. It has many of us wondering where the cold weather and snow are with Christmas only nine days away.

Like a dam holding back water, the cold air has been locked in place across Canada and the Arctic. As more cold air builds up, it eventually will sink into the lower 48, like water pressure building against a dam and eventually bursting. This blast of cold air will come just in time for Christmas weekend and will likely last through the rest of the year. Consider it a present from ol’ St. Nicholas, following a crazy year in weather that started with flooding and ended in a drought.

Through the years, Christmas in Mid-Missouri has seen a wild swing in temperatures. From a bitterly cold -19° in 1983, to a balmy 69° in 1971, and 3.4 inches of snow that fell in 1987. In just the past 10 years, Columbia has seen a wild swing in temperatures for Christmas Day as well, with more warm Christmases than cold:

2007 – 52°

2008 – 39°

2009 – 20°

2010 – 31°

2011 – 52°

2012 – 28°

2013 – 32°

2014 – 52°

2015 – 46°

2016 – 68°

Despite the warmth that we’ve seen as we closed out November and for the first week of December, it’s now looking highly likely that Mid-Missouri and a large portion of the country will have a decent shot at seeing below-normal temperatures. In general, Christmas through the rest of the year will likely feature a cold and wet pattern, which could mean some snow in the forecast for the region. The cold set to build into Mid-Missouri will likely rival the Christmases of 2012 and 2013, when temperatures struggled to climb above freezing.

It’s still too early to nail down the specifics on whether Mid-Missouri will see any wintry precipitation by Christmas morning, but the chances of seeing flurries to light snow are higher than in years past.

The first taste of snow as we head into the Christmas weekend is possible as we head from Thursday night into Friday morning. While trends have been keeping the coldest air to the north when precipitation is expected over Mid-Missouri, it’s still possible to see some flurries to light snow, with the passage of a strong cold front Thursday. The specifics will be ironed out as we close in on Thursday and models get a better handle of where the leading edge of the cold air will be.

For cold and snow lovers, the trends are working in our favor for moisture and cold air to be in place at the same time. This could mean several opportunities for snow across the Midwest. The only downfall is that even with the moisture present, it looks like any major snowfall will stay well to our north.

For now the Christmas outlook will feature unseasonably cold temperatures in the 20s, which we’re fairly confident will happen. The wintry precipitation is significantly harder to pinpoint, more than a week in advance but the odds are looking in our favor that we’ll see at least an inch snowfall before the end of the year. Of course, in the world of weather that can and most likely will change.

Stay with ABC 17 Stormtrack Weather as we continue to track the latest cold blast and follow us on Twitter @ABC17Stormtrack.

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