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A wet stretch ahead then some real winter temperatures?

The annoyingly persistent cold air damming wedge didn’t leave when it was “supposed to,” according to many local forecasters – including this amateur. It departed the Fredericksburg area just after midnight Sunday, finally opening the door to southerly winds and temperatures warming into the 60s (F).  After this past weekend’s blown forecasts a lot of folks are probably skeptical about the accuracy of future prognostications but that’s the state of today’s weather forecasting skills.  Most of the time the pros get it right, but sometimes conditions are such that one either needs a lot more upper air data (which is very expensive to obtain) or a crystal ball.  Since neither was available … you could call this past weekend’s forecast a major bust.

The warm temperatures currently hanging around will be the highs for today (Monday) as a cold front is currently crossing the Blue Ridge mountains and headed toward the ‘Burg.  The cooler air behind this boundary won’t be really frigid but it will cool things down to near normal January high temperatures (low to mid-40s) for Tuesday and Wednesday.  This front will pass through the area and then stall near the Virginia/North Carolina border as several waves of low pressure form along it as shown here:

This will be the case through Wednesday, meaning that we’ll see clouds and occasional rain for the next 48-60 hours, leading to a total of perhaps an inch or so of much-needed moisture by the time things clear out. Then it will be time for the Arctic floodgates to slowly creak open.

The latter part of this week and through the weekend the ‘Burg will see average January temperatures, but starting the early part of next week the Polar Express will whistle through town.  According to both the GFS and the European models this could be the coldest air we have seen for some time.   This European model forecast graphic for next Tuesday evening (1/22) illustrates the situation.

This shows the forecast temperatures for the 850 mb level (about 5000 feet up).  Notice the gray shading across the Fredericksburg area; this denotes temperatures in the -14 to -16 (C) degree range.  This translates into surface temperatures well below freezing and likely means daily high temperatures that struggle to reach the mid-20s (F) for several days next week in addition to strong northerly winds that will bring new meaning to the phrase “wind chill.” The details of this Arctic outbreak – including possible frozen precipitation events – will become clearer as this week progresses.  But suffice it to say that this winter is not over with yet!

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