Posted at 01:40 PM ET, 12/27/2011

Winter 2011-12 better for golfing than sledding or skiing so far

Webcam image of Whitetail ski resort in southern Pennsylvania at 12:22 p.m. on December 27 ( )

If you want winter weather in the Lower 48, maps showing regions covered by above and below normal temperatures around the globe aren’t very encouraging . In recent weekly averages, only a few places in the entire western hemisphere have reported below normal temperatures.

As shown in the image to the right below, where blue shading denotes colder than average temperatures, Greenland is one of those few places. It’s been unseasonably cold there for many weeks.

Most recent weekly averaged temperature anomalies. (NOAA)
But this isn’t really a surprise, because when Greenland is warm this time of year, North America is often really cold – with the polar vortex relocated over North America. We certainly haven’t seen that this season. And with no reliable signs that we will anytime soon, our generally mild winter of 2011-2012 should continue for a while.

So let’s put winter aside for the moment and raise a toast to how warm it will get in the next several days. Residents from the Central Plains to the mid-Atlantic might as well dust off the golf clubs later this week. High temperatures should blast into the 60s in Kansas City, Nashville, and perhaps even Richmond right around the New Year. With gusty winds out of the southwest, plan on going a club or two lower on the approach shots to keep the ball flight out of the breeze. It’s probably not a bad strategy given that courses along the East Coast should be fairly receptive after today’s rain.

Chance of at least 2” of snow in the Ohio Valley in the next day (NOAA)
If you absolutely can’t do without snow, there’s some temporary good news for those living in the Ohio Valley. A couple inches of the white stuff are expected to fall along a swath from Indiana east-northeastward to western Pennsylvania and western New York State tonight, with seasonably cold air to follow on Wednesday. The map to the right shows the probability of snowfall greater than 2 inches between now and tomorrow morning, with the areas in blue and red giving it a better than 50/50 shot.

But even in these regions, warmer winds later this week will quickly start the melting process and bring back temperatures more reminiscent of November after only one day. Brief encounters with winter like this one have been a running theme so far this winter for much of the country, especially across the usually snow-covered Northern Tier. In fact, according to the National Weather Service in Milwaukee, this month just might enter the top 10 list of warmest Decembers on record in southern Wisconsin, with some locales in Wisconsin recording the least amount of December snow ever.

Temperature departures from average expected next Tuesday by the GFS ensemble mean (Penn State)
And if you’re really aching for January-like chill in the East, some of the models are bringing a shot of cold air to the eastern third of the country next week, with temperatures perhaps as cold as 10-15°F below normal at its core. The map to the right shows temperature departures from average predicted by one of the weather models for early next week, where blues are below normal and reds likewise above.

Some other models are more aggressive with the eastern cold than the one shown, but even those don’t keep it there for more than a few days before a moderating trend brings temperatures back to normal.

That’s just where we are right now in the conversation about this winter. The dynamics of the tropical atmosphere are cycling through a regime that is helping to prevent cold air from lingering too long the United States. I’ll take it. I need to practice my swing anyway.

By  |  01:40 PM ET, 12/27/2011

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