20 bucks says it will be a white Christmas


Your weatherperson is feeling pretty good about himself this week after nailing Saturday's snow flurries in last week's column.

As a matter of fact, with his luster newly-polished to the magnitude of an A-1 star, he has been called to Washington, D.C., to mediate the budget impasse, after which he has been asked to address the long-running National Hockey League player lockout. Then, it's onto the crucial business of restoring Hostess Twinkies to their rightful status as this country's most essential food product.

In addition, and more importantly, with the $10 wagered and won for Saturday's snow, Aunt Betty will be getting that Chia Pet that is at the top of her Christmas list rather than the handsome trivet set from the Dollar Store that appeared to be headed her way instead.

Life is good, indeed!

Our Walla Walla Valley weather has most certainly taken a more seasonal turn. With the expected veering of the upper air flow from southwesterly to northwesterly, cold moist air made a significant intrusion into the state. Orographically favored locations like the Cascade and Blue mountains were dumped on with the first big snows of the year, totaling up to four feet in the former and two feet in the latter.

Anxious skiers and snowboarders were positively thrilled with the white bonanza that set the stage for some excellent holiday recreation, particularly considering how mild our recent weather has been.

Afternoon temperatures fell back to normal early December levels in the upper 30s and low 40s under mostly cloudy skies. The net result was a considerably more seasonally appropriate ambiance for the pre-holiday hustle and bustle, which has now assumed frenetic proportions.

In the near term, a series of weather systems is forecast to ripple across our area in the continuing northwesterly flow. That will lead to intervals of mostly light precipitation during the course of this week. The precipitation will fall mainly in the form of rain as daytime temperatures should remain near 40 degrees for the period, though nighttime readings will drop into the low 30s and may allow for some intermittent snow to occasionally mix into the overall wet scenario.

Forecast models are in generally good agreement in the medium range, though there is quite a bit of divergence in them by this coming weekend. The initial impulse should clear the area by late Wednesday with a transitory ridge of high pressure providing a brief period of mostly fair weather on Thursday. A new system on Friday should bring a return of precipitation, with snow levels around 2,000 feet.

A stronger and wetter storm appears to be on tap for the weekend, although there is considerable model disagreement regarding both strength and timing. The models, however, are in very close agreement with respect to the reasonably good prospect for a significant winter weather event at the beginning of next week.

In the vineyard, the vines are enjoying a holiday respite as are their minders and managers, but work shall begin anew after the first of the year with weed applications and pruning heading the list of important seasonal tasks to be undertaken in the next several weeks.

And for those with a penchant for weather-type wagering, the early line is touting a potentially white Christmas as worth the placement of a hard-earned Andy Jackson -- if the 16-day Global Forecast System is even a slightly reliable source for inside information on such matters.

A look at the December records for Walla Walla from 1961 to 1990 reveals odds of such an occurrence during that time frame at 5.88-to-1. If we factor in a slightly warmer climate in the intervening 22 years, those odds may lengthen a bit to 7-, or even 8-to-1. That's roughly equivalent to the chances of being onerously obliged to consume (with feigned pleasure) a piece of fruit cake this holiday season and then being expected to extol its highly dubious virtues to its creator.

A lifelong fan of both the weather and the Baltimore Orioles, Jeff Popick is an instructor at the Enology and Viticulture Center at Walla Walla Community College and manages the school's teaching vineyard. Send your questions and comments to him at jeffrey.popick@wwcc.edu.


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