Christmas Eve storm system comes into focus


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The question remains: Will the weather Christmas Eve be “naughty” or “nice”?

THE PROBLEM:
The answer depends completely on the track of a storm system headed to West Michigan, which has been changing in the last couple of days. Here is an example: As meteorologists we look at several “runs” of several forecast models each day. Here is how our most reliable model was doing this past week on the placement of Wednesday night’s system.

placement
(A forecast model showing the constant change ahead of Christmas Eve from day to day)

It just couldn’t make up its mind. One day the storm looked to stay in Canada, the next, West Virginia. When you look at this image, keep in mind small changes in placement can have a big effect on the type of weather you get, especially in winter. So these big swings made it hard for local meteorologists to nail down a snow total with confidence.

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS:
Monday morning, however, we can now see where the center of low pressure is starting to develop.

merge
(A satellite image showing the low pressure system over the country, and the expected merge into one storm)

The Low forming in South Dakota is kind of a weakling. The one that is forming in Oklahoma is becoming much stronger. These two storms look to merge together and swing by the east side of the state as one big storm. Our confidence is getting much higher on this for many reasons. One of which, the models are starting to agree. Look how much more resolved our best model has been on placing our Christmas Eve storm.

closer
(A recent forecast model gives a better indication on the Christmas Eve storm as we approach Thursday)

NOT EVERYONE WILL SEE THE SAME AMOUNTS:
Now this is where it gets interesting. If the storm does scoot by us to the east. We will still have a good shot of seeing about an inch of snow, on average, and some spots in Central Michigan have a good shot of seeing totals closer to 4″!

RESULT
(One of many forecast models showing where snow showers are possible, heaviest snow potentially inland)

The reason for this extra burst of snow? Something called the “deformation zone.” These happen on the west side of winter storm systems, and can produce a narrow band of heavier totals. As we get closer to Christmas day, we will be watching to nail down the placement of this “deformation zone.”

As for Lake Effect? At this point it isn’t looking too impressive. The cold air coming over the lake doesn’t look like it will be quite enough to trigger heavy snow bands. But we will definitely see some light stuff coming in off of the lake Christmas morning.

TAKEAWAYS:

  • Snow still looks possible, even likely, overnight into Christmas morning
  • Know that the forecast will likely adjust as the storm track changes
  • Plan on light snow only
  • Accumulation will vary from location to location

If all you want for Christmas is snow, stay tuned. We will be watching closely.

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