Was this ‘model-cold’?

Remember this forecast? February 2021 and it verified! (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

A lot of talk the past couple of days has been about a Christmas cold arctic blast...which seems to be warming up with each new model run. I’ve had a number of emails concerning single-digit or teens Christmas Eve and Day. Well, we know that can happen...my first Christmas working in Houston I was on duty for these miserable temperatures:

Brown outs were common during this Christmas cold snap in 1989. Courtesy National Weather Service

Look at the 7° on Dec. 23 followed by 11° on Christmas Eve and 20° Christmas Day!! I had just arrived in April 1989 to the sunny southwest town of Houston and thought “where have I moved to?”! That’s me below forecasting those crazy cold numbers:

Back in 1989, forecasting frightening freezing temperatures

And we all know from February 2021, that a week of severe cold is possible and also fatal:

A week of cold! Courtesy National Weather Service

So when forecast models Monday and yesterday went all out bone-chilling cold for Christmas weekend, a lot of media outlets noted that trend with the cautious warning to keep an eye out (or at least a parka handy). Today’s model runs are already bucking that trend coming in warmer. Here’s a comparison of the American and European, green to light blue is warmer than those purple areas:

American vs European model for long-range cold temps (Copyright 2022 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

In fact, looking at yesterday’s morning run from the American model compared to this morning shows how much of the cold air is more north and east of us. Note the purple/white areas are out of the Panhandle and the ‘green’ warmer air has moved into South Texas.

courtesy tropicaltidbits.com

So what’s going on? The fact is that the American and European models are GLOBAL models, forecasting in as much micro-detail as possible, but almost every forecast from these models is more about “guidance” than “specificity.” Just as I have told you about model-canes in a previous blog, any forecast for temperatures more than a week out could easily be called “model-cold”!

We’ll continue to watch the temperature trends for Christmas (after all, it’s Christmas!), but for now it looks to be a nice, crisp cold weekend, but not dangerously so.

Happy Holidays!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.