The first forecast of the year took us to central California, which was facing the threat of rain, thanks to the continued active pattern over the Gulf of Alaska. A few outlets thought the chance of rain was significant enough to put it in the forecast for Fresno on January 4th, but it never came to pass. In fact, it was clear and dry enough that temperatures climbed into the low 60s, which is exactly where The Weather Channel had them. After earning the most forecast victories in 2020, TWC collected the first crown of 2021. Actuals: January 4th, High 62, Low 48 January 5th, High 60, Low 43
Who could have predicted all that happened in 2020? If anyone could have predicted it, I’m sure a lot of people would have chosen to skip it. A dark December ended brightly, at least in terms of plaudits for The Weather Channel and Accuweather, who tied atop of the leaderboard for forecasters of the month.
It didn’t help put them over the top for forecaster of the year, however. That prize belonged to…. us! Victoria-Weather was he most consistent throughout the year, and ended up with the best scores on aggregate (TWC and AW were 2 and 3, respectively) for the year. Interestingly, The Weather Channel was very good when they were good, but had some stinkers mixed in. They had he most individual forecast wins for 2020, while Accuweather was never at the paramount, but never really had major rough streaks, and are at the bottom of this table.
The Weather Channel
National Weather Service
Victoria-Weather was consistent, and had moments of brilliance as well. Just the way we want it. To 2021, hopefully it goes better than 2020.
I think the southwestern US is fascinating, geographically. It’s so different than where almost everyone in the country lives, especially when you have to pass from one population hub to another. It will take one long day to cover the 703 miles this drive will take. Our pace will be at 68mph, which is perfect for driving through the desert.
Almost the entire country is sitting within an upper level trough. One part that isn’t is the west coast, where a sharp ridge is working to keep the Gulf of Alaska low at bay. Skies will be mostly sunny through southern California and western Arizona, but not completely clear. Valley fog will take a while to burn off initially, but should be out of the picture by the time we reach Bakersfield. With northerly jet flow particularly strong in the region, expect Arizona to be seasonably cool, if not a bit chillier, with cloudy skies possible, particularly west of Phoenix. Tucson is going to be a nice place to be this time of year, but may be a bit cooler than expected upon our arrival.
Our last forecast of 2020 came a couple of days after Christmas in interior California. Bakersfield was a rainy place on December 27th, and that continued to the 28th. Fortunately, the skies cleared on the 29th, so people could spend their last few hours of their 2020 quarantine on the patio, if they felt comfortable with temperatures only reaching the mid 50s. In the spirit of giving, Bakersfield allowed 3 sites, Accuweather, Weatherbug and Forecast.io to claim a tie atop the leader board to conclude this very long year. Actuals: December 28th, .21″ of rain, High 56, Low 45 December 29th, High 56, Low 42
All right everyone, it’s time to get in our first 2021 forecast, which will take us to the state of the last forecast of 2020 – California. Let’s go!
At 453PM, PT, Fresno was reporting a temperature of 58 degrees with mostly cloudy skies. A large Gulf of Alaska storm system is looming off the Pacific Coast, ready to move inland, and prefrontal southerly flow ahead of the system has already arrived, bringing additional moisture and the overcast presently in the area. The primary thrust of this system will arrive on in the late morning tomorrow. The system will swiftly move through northern California, and be out of town shortly after nightfall on Monday. Most of the precipitation will be found north of Fresno, and snow will fall in the mountainous terrain due north of town. A bubble of high pressure will trail this ridge, making for a decent enough Tuesday, but with the spectre of more inclement weather on the horizon. Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with a few shots of rain, High 59, Low 45 Tuesday – Clear and calmer, High 58, Low 41
TWC: Tomorrow – A mix of clouds and sun in the morning followed by cloudy skies during the afternoon. High 63, Low 44 Tuesday – Intervals of clouds and sunshine. High 59, Low 42
AW: Tomorrow – Sun and some clouds High 58, Low 43 Tuesday – Intervals of clouds and sunshine High 58, Low 41
NWS: Tomorrow – A 40 percent chance of showers, mainly after noon. Increasing clouds, High 58, Low 41 Tuesday – Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, High 56, Low 42
WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy in the morning then cloudy with a 50 percent chance of showers in the afternoon, High 61, Low 47 Tuesday – Mostly Sunny. Areas of fog in the morning, High 58, Low 45
WN: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with scattered showers, High 59, Low 44 Tuesday – Partly cloudy, High 56, Low 41
FIO: Tomorrow – Areas of fog before 10am. Otherwise, partly sunny, High 61, Low 43 Tuesday – Clear throughout the day. High 63, Low 41
Here is a look at a particularly busy West Coast satellite. There are a lot of clouds coming to the California coast tomorrow, but it’s moving fast, given the size of the system.
The country felt summer late into fall, and fall ran late as well, so the system that clobbered the upper Midwest and Great Lakes just before Christmas was welcome for some, I’m sure of it. People dream of a white Christmas. That’s why I am going to say confidently that the blustery snow storm that hit Akron starting on Christmas Eve was probably welcome to the locals. The Weather Channel was perhaps the most open to this turn of events, not because they were in Akron, but because they had the best forecast. Active weather always causes the most nettlesome forecasts, and this was no exception, but The Weather Channel was clearly victorious. Actuals: December 23: Trace of rain, High 53, Low 25 Christmas Eve: .1 inches of total precipitation in rain/snow High 54, Low 22
As is often the cast with mid-winter systems, a deep upper level trough will feature two iterations. The first will be a fast moving area of low pressure moving through the upper Midwest with a burst of snow in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. The second will emerge as the base of the upper trough pivots further south into warmer air, a stronger feature will develop.
In this case, the deep, secondary low will really emerge over east Texas. Tightly wound and with the clash of air masses one needs to generate some convection.
The storm will quickly shift to the northeast and get more organized as it does so, introducing a threat for severe weather in the Lower Mississippi Valley as it does so.
Here is the risk for severe weather on New Years Day, or Day 4 in the SPC parlance.
If there is one good thing about the timing of these storms, it is that their intensity will require day time heating, and overnight severe weather is not expected. Still, as the storm continues to lift to the north-northeast, severe weather is already on the agenda for January 2nd as well.
The back end of the storm isn’t going to be nearly as moisture rich as the warm sector, in good spring fashion, but there will still be snow associated with the feature, particularly through the Great Lakes.
2020 is finally almost over, but 2021 really wants to give us it’s best shot right out of the gate.
I hope everyone had a happy Holiday. If you were among the millions who were in the midst of winter weather during the Christmas Season, then I hope this forecast for southern California can fill you with warmer thoughts.
At 1054AM, PT, Bakersfield was reporting light rain and a temperature of 54 degrees. A narrow band of showers lay across the southern Valley, with more industrious precipitation in the higher terrain of the Sierras and Tehachapi Mountains. This was a more forceful preview of a storm coming later today and early in the workweek. A deep trough digging into the Pacific Coast is a tailing lobe over a broader jet trough covering the better part of the northern half of the country. The precipitation follows the course of the exiting part of the jet streak from the lobe, but a well defined area of surface low pressure looms off the California coast. Rain and mountain snow will really intensify overnight tonight, with the feature fully onshore shortly after midnight. Rain is likely in Bakersfield, but significant snow in the mountains ringing Bakersfield are all under Winter Storm advisories. The good news is that the storm will move quickly, and be chased out by dry California air by the end of the day. Tuesday looks to be atypically cool, but dry. Tomorrow – Rain likely, otherwise mostly cloudy, High 56, Low 46 Tuesday – Early AM drizzle, then sunny and cool, High 52, Low 40
TWC: Tomorrow – Partly cloudy skies during the morning hours will become overcast in the afternoon (early rain) High 57, Low 46 Tuesday – Considerable clouds early. Some decrease in clouds later in the day. High 55, Low 33
AW: Tomorrow – Cloudy with a shower in spots HHigh 56, Low 45 Tuesday – Periods of clouds and sunshine High 54, Low 40
NWS: Tomorrow – Rain likely, mainly between 8am and 9am. Patchy fog between 7am and 8am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, High 54, Low 43 Tuesday – Partly sunny, High 51, Low 41
WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with a 50 percent chance of rain, High 56, Low 44 Tuesday – Mostly cloudy in the morning, then becoming mostly sunny, High 53, Low 42
WN: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with light rain likely, High 54, Low 43 Tuesday – Partly cloudy, High 51, Low 41
FIO: Tomorrow – Rain overnight and in the morning. High 57, Low 44 Tuesday = Partly cloudy throughout the day. High 55, Low 41
Model guidance definitely doesn’t fully clear the Bakersfield by the early afternoon tomorrow, as some outlets suggest, but Bakersfield is not an easy place to get steady precipitation, which is why nobody carries it as late as we do. Still, it arrived early, so why not stay a while? Here is the radar, with that rain hanging around, especially in the mountains.
It worked out mostly by accident, but today is the beginning of the NBA season, featuring the reigning champions, the LA Lakers, and their star, LeBron James, from Akron. It was meant to be.
At 851PM, ET, Akron was reporting a temperature of 37 degrees with overcast skies. Winds were light across the region, but generally southerly in response to a warm front over the northern Great Lakes right now. The warm front is attached to a rapidly strengthening area of low pressure that promises to ruin the end of the week in the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes. The clouds over Akron right now are chaff found across the Eastern Great Lakes, which will shunt off to the northeast as warm air advances in ahead of the cold front coming through later this week. Wednesday should be warm, but increasingly windy and cloudy, with the front arriving on Christmas Eve, near dawn. It should be warm enough that it will start with rain, with a secondary circulation rising from the Tennessee Valley towards eastern Ohio. This advance will stall the cold air, which will dlay the transition to snow until much later, perhaps until the evening on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow – Mostly sunny, increasingly windy and cloudy, High 50, Low 32 Christmas Eve – Rain starting early, intensifying and then turning to heavy wet snow around nightfall. 2-4″ by midnight. High
TWC: Tomorrow – Cloudy skies (Late rain). High 51, Low 33 Christmas Eve – Rain early with snow in the afternoon. High 51, Low 27
AW: Tomorrow – Mild with sun through high clouds; breezy in the afternoon (Late RAin) High 50, Low 30 Christmas Eve – Rain mixing with, then changing to snow late, accumulating 1-3 inches; watch for a rapid freeze-up High 47, Low 25
NWS: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy, High 49, Low 31 Christmas Eve – Rain before 2pm, then rain and snow between 2pm and 4pm, then snow after 4pm. High 46, Low 24
WB: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy (late rain) High 48, Low 34 Christmas Eve – Rain, Snow in the afternoon. Light snow acumulation, High 49, Low 27
WN: Tomorrow – Mostly cloudy with isolated showers, High 49, Low 31 Christmas Eve – Cloudy with a wintry mix, High 47, Low 39
FIO: Tomorrow – Windy overnight and in the evening. High 50, Low 32 Christmas Eve – Rain (with a chance of 2–4 in. of snow) throughout the day. High 48, Low 22
It’s too bad that the forecast couldn’t come in the midst of wet weather. The NWS has rolled out new radar imagery and I could have used it. Alas, here is a look at Akron, on the cusp of clear skies. Don’t get used to them.