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Cold and snow potential before the Christmas holiday

Chief Meteorologist Brad Sugden breaks down the hype around the cold and snow
Posted at 6:09 PM, Dec 16, 2022

LANSING, Mich. — Ah, social media. We love to hate it. As much as we like to think it doesn't have a real impact on our lives - it does. Many pages, communities, weather hobbyists, and even some meteorologists have already posted about "the big one" just before Christmas. Is it real? Is it clickbait? Let's break down what we know.

First and foremost, the models will almost always have outrageous snow totals somewhere in them this time of year. Anything beyond 5-7 days is to be watched, laughed at, and nothing more. We can only tell general forecast trends that far out. Such as, above or below normal precipitation and temperatures. That's about it.

Therefore, one aspect of this forecast has high confidence. Cold air going over the relatively warm lake waters will cause a heavy round of lake effect snow leading up to Christmas. Combine that with a storm system and the models put out some pretty high snowfall totals. This shock value is what a lot of social media pages latch onto.

Here's what we know of the potential system for next Thursday/Friday:

A large storm system could develop and ride out just ahead of the coldest plunge of arctic air. Now keep in mind that would make this whole thing a giant moving target. If the system spins up faster, it'll move further north and impact Michigan. If it spins up slower and is further east when it finally develops it'll be further south and east of us. Here are the two main models showing exactly what I just said.

European model:

Euro Track
European model track

American model:

American Model
American Model Track

The cold air will be surging southward from the northern most Arctic areas in northern Canada.

Cold Plunge

So as the storm system develops along and rides this cold air surge, the track could greatly vary depending on the timing it all happens. Therefore, the heavy swaths of snow are much different. We are talking a distance of hundreds of miles here. Check it out:

European Model:

European model snow
European model snow

American Model:

American Model Snow
American Model Snow

So, you get the point by now. A lot can change! Is this something worth watching? Absolutely. Should you make plans based on it actually hitting us? No.

Here is how snow forecasting generally works:

5-7 days out: We're watching model trends. You should do nothing.
3-5 days out: Something is heading our way. We still need to figure out track, timing, moisture, snow totals. You can start thinking about the chance it actually happens.
2-3 days out: We have a pretty good idea it'll happen. Fine details, specific snow totals, specific timing can vary a bit. You should have a plan, prepare, and watch for changes to the forecast.
1-2 days out: We are finalizing our forecast and communicating any uncertainties that remain. You should be prepared and start implementing your plan.
0-24hrs out: We are in "tracking mode" forecast is usually finalized. You should have implemented your plan, made preparations, and wait it out.

Plan on tuning into FOX 47 News for regular updates on this and the potential bitter cold. The cold air will be causing tons of lake effect snow on the west side of the state. Some areas will likely have wind chill values below zero from Wednesday all the way through Christmas. The only hint of warm up we are seeing might not arrive until New Years Day.

Stay safe, stay warm, and please check back for updates!

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