Monday, December 24, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 1

No. 1: Once in Royal David's City.

This has always been one of my favorites, but it soared to the top of the charts last Christmas, when my 12-year-old daughter was asked to open both Christmas Eve services at our church by singing the first two verses of this carol a capella at the back of the church.

Talk about goosebumps!

She'll be reprising that contribution to the service again this year -- actually in about 90 minutes.

As the time for the star of Bethlehem draws nigh, I'd like to wish you all a joyous Christmas season.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Weather update: Not looking good

It's ALMOST time to write off Christmas snow in these parts.

The saying in weather is "the trend is your friend" -- that is, follow the trend to find out what is going to happen.

Well, the trend is for the Christmas storm to be sheared out -- to essentially have all its energy sucked up by the system behind it.

By the time THAT system is ready to roll through, our cold air is long gone -- which means we see rain the couple days after Christmas.

Is there time for this to change -- yes, but it's unlikely.


Chance of White Christmas: 1 in 200 (down from 1 in 40)
Reasoning: No model support for a storm, despite a favorable setup

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Afternoon weather update: It's a puzzle

First, this would be a good time to remind you that I don't know what the heck I'm talking about. By that I mean, I have no meteorological training, other than what I've picked up. What I can do for you, though, is aggregate the opinions of the many real mets who frequent message boards and forum across the Internet and also illustrate through maps available on public web sites what is going on.

Having said that, there is much interest in the met community about this potential system for a couple of reasons:

1) It's a possible Christmas snow which is exciting to most everybody
2) There is higher than normal uncertainty with how the models are depicting the current pattern.

Right now the best way to describe the propsect of a Christmas snow is that there are pieces to the puzzle laying on a table -- the question is, will they get put together?

Right now, all of the pieces are shown in all of the models -- but none of them have the puzzle complete --- the Euro develops the storm too late, offshore, but has cold air in place. The UK model is better on precip but iffy on temps. And the GFS, well, it's just all over the place -- no storm at all one run, then too warm, then too suppressed.

There is an excellent chance we get a big fat nothing from this system or a cold rain, or a passing flurry.

But for now, the best I can tell you is this: We can't rule out a White Christmas. And to be able to say that on Dec. 20 is reason for optimism.

Still ...
Chances of White Christmas: 1 in 40 (down from 1 in 30)
Reasoning: Continued model uncertainty and the failure of any one model to latch on to a strong, snowy solution.

Quick Thursday AM update: Anything goes

We are now faced with an array of model solutions regarding a potential Christmas snow, which is neither unexpected or, necessarily bad. It would be unprecedented for models to pick up on an event like this 7 days out and show the same solution over and over until the storm hit.

Let's break it down.

The overnight Euro, delays the development of the storm until it has almost already passed us to the south and east. Then it pops a strong low off the coast, but probably too late for us to get much.

Last night's GFS showed a nice swath of precip -- around .75 inches liquid equivalent -- over our are, but weakened the high pressure to our north just enough to give us only a cold rain.

Then, this morning's GFS weakened the storm itself, shearing it out and giving us only flurries, drizzle or maybe a dusting of snow.

The main point, though, is that the players are in place for an event -- high pressure to our north and some sort of southern disturbance. Will everything be timed just right for snow? If I knew that, I'd be making a lot more money than I am right now.

But as long as those players are on the field, there is still a chance for a ... well, touchdown!

Remember, the potential event is still 5 full days away, so a LOT can happen with the models in that span.

I'll update again early this afternoon after the noon model runs are complete.

Chances of Christmas snow: 1 in 30 (flat from 1 in 30 yesterday afternoon)
Reasoning: General model agreement on some sort of even with basic pieces in place for a winter storm.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Afternoon weather update: Model madness

The two models that showed a snowstorm for Christmas Day are now world's apart from each other.

In one corner, the European model -- most trusted in the medium range (3-7 days). It backed up last nights run with another appealing solution today -- a major snow storm for the southeast and lower mid-Atlantic -- particularly eastern portions of the state, where a major snowfall is projected.

We would still get in on the act with 2-6 inches of snow, according to this run.

But before you dust off the sleds, the noon run of the GFS model has a very different, if not somewhat bizarre solution. Instead of tracking low pressure along the Gulf Coast and across southern Ga. off the S.C. coast, it takes the low in an unusual NNE direction from lower Mississippi up into Kentucky!

Obviously, this is no good for snow - we stay well on the warm side of the low. While it might bring some welcomed rain, White Christmas would have wait.

By the way, anybody know when the last measureable snowfall fell in Charlotte (more than a trace?).

60 years ago!

At the end of each post I will update my odds of the storm happening. As we get closer, if an event is more imminent, I will make those odds more detailed. And don't forget, for an e-mail alert on these columns, write to

Odds of measureable snowfall: 1 in 30 (down from 1 in 25)
Reasoning: Now only one model showing the storm

Two models show white Christmas!

Brace yourselves!

Abruptly, two runs of two different models popped up with a Christmas Day snowstorm for the Carolinas.

Here is a sequence of maps from the early morning run of the GFS model, the main model used by American forecasters:

Wee hours Christmas morning
Dawn Christmas morning
Early Christmas afternoon
Christmas night

That's about 1 inch of liquid precip, which would equate to 10 inches of snow.

As you can see, temps are marginal, but would be mostly or all snow to the N.C./S.C. line.

The European model -- which most consider the best medium range model -- shows a slightly later developing system that doesn't really become potent until it gets to our east -- bringing us much less precip, but with colder temps -- still, some sort of wintry precip. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, because the model trends this year have been to bring systems north and west as the event draws nearer.

1) This is not in a model "sweet spot" -- 7 days out is still a LONG way meteorologically and MUCH could change (in fact, one could argue that the last thing you want 7 days out is to see a storm for your area)
2) The models have not been performing well in the medium range in the last few weeks. The big storm for the interior northeast last week was originally projected to pass hundreds of miles south and east of where it eventually tracked
3) It never snows on Christmas.

I would give this a 1 in 25 chance of verifying, but that's better than 0 out of 25, right? It will be fun to track over the coming days.

Now, a couple of things -- if you would like to receive e-mail alerts ON JUST WINTER WEATHER, I will be offering that for free. So, you'll receive an e-mail whenever I make a signficant update to my blog that is weather related. If you would like this, please e-mail our Webmaster Erik Regans at Put WEATHER UPDATES in the extent line.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Friday winter weather threat?

The chances for a White Christmas are slim and none (again) this year, but in the shorter term, one of the short range models has a very near miss for us that bears watching.

Check out these two model maps from the NAM model run of this afternoon:

For the wee hours Friday morning.
For around dawn Friday morning.
For Friday afternoon.

As you can see the precip just brushes our area and the air is JUST cold enough to support some sort of light winter mix of some kind.

If those two trended closer together, we could see a minor winter event.

There isn't much other model support for this and I'd say the odds are very low, but it's at least worth tracking.

Top 10 Carols: No. 2

No. 2: Silent Night

The top 2 on the list are both personal for me.

My strongest memory from childhood when it comes to the Christmas Eve service is the lights being doused after communion and the congregation singing silent night by candlelight.

It still gives me chills to think about it.

The current-day tune was written by Franz Gruber with words by Josef Morh, a German priest. Even in America, the German version "Stille Nacht" is sung.

The song was sung simultaneously in English and German by troops during the Christmas truce of 1914, as it was one of the few carols that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.

Here is version of the song in German as sung by a boys choir.

Anybody want to guess what No. 1 is? You might be surprised!

The list so far:
No. 2: Silent Night
No. 3: O Come all ye Faithful
No. 4: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
No. 5: Angels we have heard on high
No. 6: Some children see him
No. 7: O come o come emmanuel
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 3

No. 3: O Come all ye Faithful

This famous hymn is also known by its Latin name "Adeste Fideles." As is the case with many carols, the origin is unclear. The first time the current lyrics and hymn are known to have been paired together is the middle 18th century.

Some believe the hymn has Portuguese origins, although that is unclear.

Whatever the case, this is often the processional or recessional hymn at many Christmas Eve services.

Here's a great version by American Idol runner up Katherine McPhee.

Only 2 to go! Any guesses????

No. 3: O Come all ye Faithful
No. 4: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
No. 5: Angels we have heard on high
No. 6: Some children see him
No. 7: O come o come emmanuel
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 4

No. 4: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

Now we're getting to the big boys -- the hymns that if they aren't listed in the Christmas Eve church bulletin, you feel like you were cheated.

Hark the herald angels sing was written by John Wesley's brother Charles, according to Wikipedia.

I was interested to learn that Wesley at one point envisioned the lyrics to be sung to the tune of the Easter hymn "Christ the Lord is risen today" If that's the same as the modern hymn "Jesus Christ is Risen Today," then I tried to match the lyrics of "Hark" to that tune and it works!

The tune most often used today was derived from a Mendelssohn arrangement in the 19th century.

I was also interested to find out that "Hark" is the recessional hymn for the annual Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in King's College Chapel, Cambridge.

I graduated from the University of the South in Sewanee, an Episcopal school which holds a very close version of Lessons and Carols every December.

The list so far:
No. 4: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing
No. 5: Angels we have heard on high
No. 6: Some children see him
No. 7: O come o come emmanuel
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 5 (also, weather update)

First, on the weather, the weekend storm will still be big for folks in the northeast, but there is a double whammy of bad news for us -- first, no snow. Second, the chances of a good soaking rain are also lower -- we may get caught in a "dry slot" and could see just some light rain, rather than the heavy event we need. Also, a hint of some storminess in about 10-12 days (!!!!), but too soon to tell on that.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled countdown.

No. 5: Angels we have heard on high

Also, simply known as "Gloria," the words to this song are based on a French carol, Les Anges dans nos Campagnes (literally, The Angels in our Countryside).

Obviously, the carol is known for the melodic, drawn out "Gloria," chorus.

For me, this is one of the biggies often sung on Christmas Eve.

Here is a version by Josh Groban, who my co-worker Donna Roddy says is the bomb.

The list so far:
No. 5: Angels we have heard on high
No. 6: Some children see him
No. 7: O come o come emmanuel
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 6

No. 6: Some children see him

This may be the most obscure song on the list. I first heard it on James Taylor's Christmas album released in the last couple of years.

It is a carol about the vision of Jesus by different races of children.

It ends with this stanza:

The children in each different place
will see the baby Jesus' face
like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace,
and filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing
and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.'
Tis love that's born tonight!

Upon further research, however, I came upon a fascinating story.

The song was written by Alfred Burt, part of a family of Episcopal priests. The Burts began a tradition of sending out Christmas Cards with originally composed carols included. Here is the collection ("Some children see him" is from 1951).

Here is a You Tube version of the song by Kenny Loggins.

The list so far:

No. 6: Some children see him
No. 7: O come o come emmanuel
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Weekend storm update

Well, for one shining moment, this weekend looked like "the big one." Check out yesterday afternoon's run of the GFS.

That's a big ice to snow event -- almost two inches of liquid -- if all snow, it would be measured in feet, not inches

But alas, that was simply the start of a strong trend, moving the system north with every model run -- now, the GFS and the European model show us with all rain.

Is there time for a trend back to the south? Yes, but it usually doesn't work that way -- our storms almost always trend north to get us, not south.

Still, I'll keep an eye on it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 7

No. 7: O come, O come Emmanuel

Technically, this is an advent hymn, but we seem to skip over Advent for Christmas these days anyway, so what the heck.

According to Wikipedia, it is unclear from what period this hymn and its lyrics originate - perhaps as far back as the 8th century.

I was intrigued by this passage on Wikipedia:

"Performance variations exist today over the rhythm of the music. Many performances pause on the last syllable of "Emmanuel", in both the verse and the chorus, however often performances omit these pauses to give a greater sense of understanding to the chorus "Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel". If a pause is included, the meaning is lost as an audible comma is heard between "Emmanuel" and "shall come to thee..."."

I've always noticed this about the song -- I prefer to the pause NOT to be used in the chorus but I DO like it used in the verses.

Couldn't find much on-line. Here is a You Tube version by Whitney Houston that's not bad -- although the photographic slide show is superfluous.

The list so far:

No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter
No. 7: O come, O come Emmanuel

Sunday, December 09, 2007

First legit snow threat

As some of you may know, I started a paid e-mail column on winter weather a couple years back.

It hasn't snowed since.

So, instead of taking people's money for nothing, I'm going to provide that service for free on this blog until there is evidence it will snow again here ... ever.

My column generally gives a heads up to potential winter weather events and summarizes the views of meteorologists (I'm certainly not one) who write an analyze on various web sites.

As you might have read from an earlier column, the OVERALL patterns this year is very hostile to snow. But, just like we can NOT see snow from a great pattern, we can also get a good snow even from a lousy pattern, if everything comes together.

The last couple runs of a computer model called the GFS does just that.

This is the model's forecast map for next Saturday afternoon. And here is the map for Sunday evening. If it verified, that's a 1-3 inch snow. And here is the European model from a similar time frame -- warmer, but wetter.

Now, 7 days off is forever and this will change a million times, but at least it's something to track, which is more than we've had thus far this season.

Stay tuned!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 8

No. 8 is: "In the bleak midwinter."

Ironically, a friend of mine e-mail me yesterday that he was following the countdown and offered that James Taylor's version of "In the bleak midwinter" was particularly good. I agree and have it on I-tunes.

The last verse of the song is particularly moving:
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.

I found this version of the song on You Tube, sung by the Lichefield Cathedral Choir.

So far:
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain
No. 9: Lo, how a rose e'er blooming
No. 8: In the bleak midwinter

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Top 10 Carols: No. 9

Coming in at No. 9, is the hauntingly beautiful "Lo how a rose e'er blooming"

If you aren't familiar with it, here is a version (press "play") by low brass instruments.

Here are the lyrics:
Lo, how a Rose e'er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
Of Jesse's lineage coming, as saints of old have sung.
It came, a flow'ret bright, amid the cold of winter,when half-spent was the night.

Isaiah t'was foretold it, the Rose I have in mind.
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God's love aright, she bore to us a Savior,when half-spent was the night.

Flower, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispel in glorious splendor the darkness everywhere.
True man, yet very God, from sin and death he saves us,and lightens every load.

It's certainly not as cheery a tune as some standbys, but truly a mesmerizing piece of music.

So far:
No. 10: Go tell it on the mountain
No. 9: Lo how a rose e'er blooming
No. 8: Friday

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Skip's Top 10 Christmas carols -- today, No. 10

For the next 10 days, I will regale you with my top 10 Christmas carols. I'm trying to hold this list to actual carols (so, the Grinch theme and Grandma got runover by a Raindeer will not be on the list).

You may be surprised by a couple of these and I'm sure everybody will have a different order.

As the series goes on, feel free to comment on carols you do or don't like.

No. 10: "Go tell it on the mountain"

I like this carol mainly because it's uplifting and asks us to participate in sharing the Nativity rather than simply experiencing it ourselves.

According to Wikipedia, this was orginally an African-American spiritual.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Winter outlook

In a word: Yuck!

If you don't like snow, then the winter of 2007-08 is shaping up to be right up your alley.

We are in what is being called a "moderate" La Nina event. La Nina and El Nino refer to ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean. Moderate to strong La Ninas are notoriously bad for winter weather in the east, especially the southeast.

The general pattern for us during this types of winters is warm and dry. Plus, the current drought tends to enhance that tendancy. A stubborn ridge of high pressure over the southeast or the southeastern Atlantic tends to send storms through the middle of the country rather than up the east coast.

This means any cold air we see is only a glancing blow.

Anyway, modeling looks benign through mid- to late-December.

Only ray of hope: There is some recent data that shows the La Nina might be weakening. Weak La Ninas teleconnect much better to a colder, stormier winter for us, so it's something to keep an eye on.

So, overall, it won't be mild every day, but cold air intrusions should be limited in severity and duration.

While even in the worst pattern we can still see things come together for snow, it looks like our best chances will be later in the season.

Not a pretty picture for snow lovers, but it's the cold (?) hard truth!