November 21, 2018

Tranquil Weather Breaks With Rains Out West (Finally!) And A Frigid Thanksgiving In The East

Clouds to the left of me, icicles to my right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you. That's pretty corny, but we're going to be knee-deep in mashed potatoes and green bean casserole tomorrow, so who cares, right? It's going to be a wild couple of days for weather across the United States. Well, unless you live in the central part of the country, in which case it'll be pretty nice until early next week.

Western Rains

Rain is a welcome sight across California as the state reels from the deadliest and most destructive round of wildfires in the state's recorded history. Hundreds of residents of Paradise, California, remain missing or unaccounted for after fast-moving wildfires completely engulfed the town, located in the northern part of the state near Chico. The fire killed at least 81 people and burned more than 153,000 acres—an area equivalent to the size of the city limits of Chicago.

California is in the second month of its (until now, rainless) rainy season, which begins in the middle of fall and typically stretches through the end of winter. Most of California has been downright parched after a long, hot summer, and the extended dryness exacerbated the conditions that allowed the Camp Fire in Paradise and the Woolsey Fire in Malibu to grow into firestorms.

Most of the focus is on California because it's, well, on fire, but really the entire Pacific Northwest—especially interior parts of Oregon and Washington—could really use the rain that's on its way. The rain will continue in waves over the next couple of days. The Weather Prediction Center expects several more inches of rain to fall between this evening and next Wednesday, with the heaviest totals expected along coastal areas between southern British Columbia and central California, as well as the higher elevations.

Most of the mountain areas out west will see precipitation fall in the form of snow. The highest elevations could measure snowfall in feet over the next couple of days. This is great news for both the region's water resources and the tourism industry, which is heavily reliant on winter sports.

Coastal Cold and Central Comfort 

The old cliché about "roller coaster" weather seems pretty apt this weekend, especially if you look at upper-level charts and temperature maps. The gyrations in winds and temperature patterns across the United States over the next couple of days kind of does trace a child's rendition of roller coaster tracks if you squint hard enough.

Source: Tropical Tidbits

We're in a pretty wavy upper-level weather pattern right now. The United States and Canada are bookended by two troughs on either coast with a large ridge of high pressure across the central part of the continent. This trough-ridge-trough sequence is allowing for chilly temperatures and precipitation to prevail out west, generally sunny and mild conditions in the center of the country, and frigid weather in the Northeast giving way to a chilly, dreary rain this weekend.

We'll probably hear quite a bit about the cold in the Northeast this Thursday and Friday. Both the high and low temperatures could be some of the coldest recorded on Thanksgiving in many years. Anyone watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York tomorrow will likely hear the hosts make bad jokes about the cold every 12 seconds or so.

Here's a better look at the National Weather Service's expected low temperatures on Thursday morning (forecasts as of Wednesday afternoon)...

...and the highs on Thursday...

...and the low temperature on Friday morning...

...and the high on Friday for all the folks returning home from the hospital after getting into a fist fight over a $7 lamp at Target:

The only regions that really make out okay temperature-wise over the next couple of days will be the Plains, parts of the Midwest, and much of the Southeast. The trough over the West Coast will continue moving east through the weekend, and the cooler weather—including a potential snowstorm!—will pick up across the central part of the country early next week.

Does Cold Weather Disprove Climate Change?

Every year, we get people—some less firmly rooted in reality than others (hi Donald!)—who claim that every burst of below-normal temperatures that washes over the United States solidly refutes all of the evidence of "global warming," so take that, Al Gore.
Source: Tropical Tidbits

It helps to remember that the world is bigger than your backyard.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I graduated from the University of South Alabama in 2014 with a degree in political science and a minor in meteorology. I contribute to The Weather Network as a digital writer, and I've written for Forbes, the Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang, Popular Science, Mental Floss, and Gawker's The Vane. My latest book, The Skies Above, is now available. My first book, The Extreme Weather Survival Manual, arrived in October 2015.


  1. "coastal areas between southern British Columbia and central North Carolina"

    Maybe North California?

    1. Yes! Thank you. I'll fix it. I must have had home on my mind.