As of this writing, the cold front is on schedule and is just crossing the Chattahoochee and Apalachicola Rivers. Last night's balloon launch revealed an extraordinarily thick saturated airmass in roughly the lowest 5,000 feet of the atmosphere. That's why we had the low stratus clouds and fog Saturday into Saturday night. The stable cool wedge is finally eroding and this morning's balloon launch is showing a much thinner moist layer roughly about 1,500 feet above the ground. It's conceivable that we'll see some breaks in the clouds before the cold front even arrives this afternoon. The radar echoes are dramatically weaker now than just 3 hours ago when I walked in the door, so any showers that accompany the front will be brief and light. Most areas will probably miss out on measurable rainfall. The front should reach the Thomasville and Tallahassee areas around noon and exit the lower Suwannee River Valley by 4 o'clock. Northwest winds will pick up and usher in drier air and clearing skies before the sun sets.
We continue to see a lot of cirrus clouds via satellite imagery behind this front, but the thickest cirrus is over South Texas, Mexico and the tropical Pacific Ocean. The models are hinting at patches of cirrus moving over us tonight along with a 3-5 mph wind. These two elements should prevent a freeze, but widespread lows in the mid to upper 30s are anticipated. We only expect highs to barely exceed the 60 degree mark on Christmas Eve with a light northerly wind.
A fairly vigorous upper air disturbance will move through our area on Christmas Day, but dry air in the lower atmosphere will only permit a few showers to develop (at most). The present thinking is that enough middle and high level clouds will keep us away from the freezing mark Christmas morning, but those same clouds will keep temperatures below average Christmas afternoon.
Our best shot at a freeze may end up on Wednesday morning, if the skies can clear out soon enough. That is not a certainty at this point; however, and we'll try to refine that forecast in the coming days. It still does appear that a gradual warming trend will occur late this week as a ridge starts migrating northward from the Bahamas into the Sunshine State. An unsettled weather pattern (including rain) is expected next weekend, but odds favor the wettest weather to stay a little to our northwest. That could still help areas in North Georgia and Alabama that are suffering as much or worse than we are. We might still get in on some rain here, too, but it may have to wait until late next weekend if the latest models are correct.