Warmest Christmas in living memory possible as 'blowtorch' weather pattern likely in the East

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Will You See A White Christmas?

BY: WEATHER.COM

There is growing confidence that the widespread warmth we've seen so far this December will also dominate much of Christmas week in the eastern half of the United States. Depending on how long the mild weather pattern holds on, next Friday could be the warmest Christmas Day of your lifetime, particularly if you live in one of the East Coast states.

This mild forecast means the prospect for a white Christmas is highly unlikely for many of those states.

(MORE: White Christmas Forecast)

Meteorologists sometimes jokingly refer to the type of warm weather pattern we have seen recently, and the one coming next week, as a "blowtorch" in social media. The term may be a reference to weather maps showing temperatures compared to normal; these patterns tend to resemble a large red or white scorch mark surrounded by shades of orange and yellow, as if a giant blowtorch had been pointed at the Earth.

Of course, the actual cause is not a blow torch but a weather pattern that keeps typical winter chill at bay and holds air from the Pacific or the tropics over the mainland United States.

The current warm weather pattern in the East will linger for a few more days until a cooldown arrives in time for the weekend. However, computer model forecast guidance is giving us a strong signal that widespread unseasonable warmth will return for much of Christmas week. This could add to the more than 1,900 daily record high temperatures that have been tied or broken across the Lower 48 in the first 14 days of the month.

Below we have a look at the forecast, followed by perspective on how warm this December has been so far.

Forecast: A Brief Cooldown First

The ongoing mild weather that we've seen in recent days will continue into Thursday for parts of the East, though the number of daily record highs that will be threatened has decreased substantially.

On Wednesday, areas from the Great Lakes region to the Deep South will see highs 10 to 20 degrees above average for the last time this week. For the East Coast states, expect temperatures to stay much warmer than average through Thursday. Most areas will fall back to average by Friday except New England, where it will stay up to 10 degrees above average.

(MORE: Forecast Temperature Maps)

Temperatures will remain near average through the weekend in the eastern third of the nation, with even some snow possible in the interior Northeast and central Appalachians. However, the return of abnormal warmth will start to build in the nation's midsection. This leads us back into the "blowtorch" weather pattern that will return for Christmas week.

Next Week: Warm Weather Pattern Returns

With the caveat that forecast details could change since we are several days away, here's an overview of the mild temperatures setting up for Christmas week.

The warmer than average temperatures will initially start to build back into parts of the Plains and Midwest Saturday into Sunday. Highs Sunday could be 10 to 20 degrees above average from Texas to parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

This mild air will continue to build east, with most areas from the southern Plains to the East Coast 10 to 20 degrees above average by Tuesday.

(Forecast: Chicago | Boston | New York)

Though the intensity of the above-average warmth may fluctuate each day, it appears most locations in the central and eastern states could see temperatures stay above average right through Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

But this may not be a sunny, clear-sky type of mild weather pattern. A couple of low pressure systems and a southerly flow of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico will bring cloud cover and periods of rain next week, resulting in travel hassles at airports and on the roads.

Depending on how this mild weather pattern evolves, some cities could flirt with their warmest temperatures on record for Christmas Eve.

(FORECAST: Atlanta | Dallas | Nashville)


Here are a few of the daily record highs that are within reach on Christmas Eve (Dec. 24) for select cities based on the current forecast:

Boston: (61 degrees in 1996)
New York City: (63 degrees in 1996)
Washington, D.C.: (69 degrees in 1933)
Raleigh: (75 degrees in 1931)

For Christmas Day, it's not out of the question that some cities could see highs within several degrees of their warmest temperatures on record for Dec. 25. That said, we are more than a week away, so uncertainty remains with exactly how mild it may be on Christmas Day. The map below shows our current forecast high temperatures compared to the record for Dec. 25.

December Record Warmth So Far

According to preliminary data from NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), at least 1,974 record daily highs were tied or broken across the U.S. during the first 14 days of December, representing almost 5 percent of the roughly 40,000 daily high-temperature reports received from more than 3,000 locations. More than 2,800 additional record-warm low temperatures have been set during the same time period.

By comparison, just 93 daily record lows were set in the same time frame, most of which were on or before Dec. 5.

Incredibly, record high temperatures were set during the morning hours in several Midwest and Northeast cities during the four-day period spanning Dec. 12-15.

The overall average temperatures (highs and lows averaged together) during the first 14 days of December were 8 to 14 degrees above average for a large swath of the country, stretching from the Midwest into parts of New England and the mid-South, according to an analysis by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. This is incredible considering the upper limit of the legend used on the graphic is eight degrees.

Why Will it Be So Warm Christmas Week?

After a southward dip in the jet stream accompanied by cooler air moves through the East Friday into Saturday, it will quickly build back north across the eastern half of the nation and allow the widespread mild air to return. This lifting of the jet stream back to the north will be in response to a southward dip in the jet stream sweeping into the West.

Meanwhile, the clockwise flow around high pressure in the western Atlantic will allow southerly surface winds to dominate the East next week, pumping warm air from the tropics northward. Southerly winds ahead of a couple of low pressure systems moving across the country next week will also help pump in the mild, moist air from the south.

See photos of the 2015-2016 winter weather season across the U.S.:

21 PHOTOS
Snow, winter weather 2015-2016 season across the U.S.
See Gallery
Warmest Christmas in living memory possible as 'blowtorch' weather pattern likely in the East
LUBBOCK, TEXAS - DECEMBER 27: A highway worker tries to shield himself while walking to his truck on December 27, 2015 in Lubbock, Texas. Coming on the heels of several strong tornadoes, some northern parts of Texas are experiencing blizzard conditions with wind gusts up to 50 mph and as much as 13 inches of snow forecast. (Photo by John Weast/Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: Steve Hauser plows snow in the Caribou Shopping Center in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
NEDERLAND, CO - DECEMBER 15: A yellow lab waits patiently in his owner's snowy old truck along East 1st Street in Nederland, Colorado on December 15, 2015. Snow is expected to continue throughout the day. The dog looked warm and didn't wait long in the car as his owner returned shortly after an errand in the town. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: Anna Renton, 7, right, relaxes while neighbor Graham Langner, 7, has a snow fight with his nanny, Ashely Kish.The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - DECEMBER 15: Crut Liles clears snow from his walkways outside his home in Lakewood, December, 15, 2015. Many schools in the area are closed due to the snow storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - DEC. 15: A CDOT crew runs their plow truck southbound on Colorado Blvd. near E. 13th Ave. in Denver. The Denver metro area received more snow than expected overnight, closing schools across the city with some areas measuring a foot of snow by the early morning. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Al Frelk walks his dog, Shiba, 10, in Lords Park in Elgin, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2015. Asked about the snow, Frelk said, 'It's beautiful, but can be tough to drive in. Though Shiba has been waiting 9 months for this.' The first winter storm of the season dropped more than 10 inches of snow at numerous Chicagoland locations. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 17: Snow hit the Denver metro area having an impact on air travel at Denver International Airport. They were clearing out from the snow on Tuesday, November 17, 2015. Raul Hernandez shovels snow in the economy lot. Hernandez and his crew had worked all night to clear snow. (Photo by Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
LAKEWOOD, CO - NOVEMBER 11: Brandon Nelli, a student at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, shovels snow during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. Lakewood got almost 3 inches in some areas form the storm. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 11: A blanket of white snow covers Fort Logan National Cemetery during a Veteran's Day snow storm the moved into the area overnight, November, 11, 2015. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
MONUMENT, CO. - November 17: Bob Swift clearing his driveway of a deep drift of snow in Monument, CO. November 17, 2015 Monument, CO (Photo By Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
An above-average amount of snow covers a small cabin near where the first snow survey of winter conducted by the California Department of Water Resources in Phillips, California December 30, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Greaves
Cameron Shonnard backflips a jump at Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California, December 5, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. REUTERS/Max Whittaker TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Fresh snow clings to trees near Big Bend, California, December 4, 2015. An El Nino is forecasted for California, and regular precipitation has been welcomed after years of drought. Picture taken December 4. REUTERS/Max Whittaker
The U.S. Capitol dome can be seen behind piles of snow removed from parking areas and walkways around the Capitol grounds in Washington January 26, 2016. The snowbound Washington area was resuming partial business on Tuesday as trains and buses restarted near-normal service, while federal offices remained closed following a massive blizzard that hammered the U.S. East Coast. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Floodwaters cover Green Avenue after a winter storm in Manasquan, New Jersey, January 24, 2016. A morning high tide surge of 2 feet followed snowfall of about 2 feet in the first major storm of the season. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter
A couple poses for a photo on a snow pile during a snow storm in Times Square in the Manhattan borough of New York, January 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, UNITED STATES - 2016/02/15: Snow is once again falling across Washington, D.C on Monday, 15 February 2016. The bitter cold was replaced by snow, sleet and rain Monday in the mid-Atlantic states and the South, but many residents were able to hunker down at home with federal offices and many businesses closed for Washington's Birthday. (Photo by Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A barn painted with the U.S. flag is seen in the snow covered field in Kanawha, Iowa, United States, January 16, 2016. Iowa will be the first state to hold its primary, with both Democratic and Republican events being held February 1, 2016. Picture taken January 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Police officers gather outside the Montgomery County Courthouse, where actor and comedian Bill Cosby will arrive for a preliminary hearing on sexual assault charges, in Norristown, Pennsylvania February 2, 2016. Cosby has been charged with the 2004 sexual assault of Andrea Constand, a former women's basketball team manager at Temple University in Philadelphia, Cosby's alma mater. REUTERS/Mark Makela REUTERS/Mark Makela
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