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Don Paul: Harsh days, a cold game and likely a white Christmas in the forecast

As we head into the coldest temperatures and wind chills by far this season, and another movable feast of serious lake snow and blowing snow, the least I can do is let you know it won’t be relentless — it will only seem that way when you’re out in it.

After Thursday’s subzero wind chills, Saturday’s warm-up into the upper 30s should feel like relief. Sort of. Because it will look like this:


Not a good look, I admit. Gusty winds with some slushy snow turning to rain will not exactly fill the bill for relief. And then there’s Sunday, when some of you may still toddle to the stadium in the hope the Browns will be the Browns.


Diminishing snow showers and diminishing temperatures with a brisk wind will enhance the optimistic atmosphere, right? Temps fall from the low 30s into the 20s. I suggest, as a non-sportsperson, you Bills had better win this one. The wind chill always feels worse after a loss. After the game, a polar air mass will dig in its heels for a day or two, but there will be more ups and downs following.

For example, there’s the look of Dec. 22. See that dashed red line? That’s a sign of a distinct warm-up.


After that, the picture gets fuzzier as we go further out in time, as you would expect.

There is some question whether there will be enough warming to cancel the white Christmas at lower elevations. I have my doubts all the old snow will be gone by Christmas even near Buffalo, and there certainly will be some old snow left in the hilly terrain after the huge amounts which already have fallen.

The ensembles suggest some more ups and downs before Christmas, with the European suggesting at least a modest cold shot toward Christmas Eve, which may allow for some fresh snow. There’s simply too much uncertainty to speculate on whether that will occur this far out in time, but at least you can see the colder air approaching from the west here.


Most ensembles (multiple runs of individual models) are suggesting some more frequent warming after Christmas and into the first half of January. After mid-January, the European extended range ensemble (good only for trends, NOT daily forecasts) suggests a return to frequent harsh cold over the Midwest, the Great Lakes and the Northeast.

Almost needless to say, nothing is carved in stone or even silly putty 30-40 days from now.

The less successful National Weather Service Climate Forecast System ensemble doesn’t show this return to a harsh pattern, but if I were forced to choose between the two ensembles, I’d go with the European. It’s far from foolproof but it does offer superior physics, a better track record and it has greater supercomputer crunch power behind it.

In the meantime, we can come back to my original thought.

Some harsh days are ahead, but this will not be the relentless cold of February 2015. If you’ve forgotten, that was the coldest month in Buffalo record-keeping history. We don’t appear to be heading back into THAT abyss.

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