Peoria, Ill. (WMBD) – Winter will officially kick off on Monday, and Central Illinois is looking at some big changes ahead of Christmas. Those changes will include some of the coldest weather we’ve seen this winter season and perhaps some snow before Christmas Eve. In addition to the colder and potentially snowier weather, the Great Conjunction, aka the Christmas Star, will be visible in the southwest sky on Monday…we hope.
What to expect this week…
- Gusty winds and Mild Temperatures on Monday
- Cold front arrives Wednesday
- Temperatures falling throughout the afternoon
- Rain changing to snow
- A period of snow is possible Wednesday night and Thursday
Sunday night clipper
A clipper system will bring a period of light rain and freezing rain to Central Illinois between 12 am and 6 am Monday. With limited moisture and pavement temperatures above freezing, ice is not expected to accumulate. Any rain from the clipper is expected to end prior to sunrise but winds will be on the rise. Winds will blow from the west at 15-25 mph with occasional gust between 30 and 40 mph expected. The winds will subside Monday night with clearing skies allowing temperatures to fall into the mid 20s.
Arctic front Wednesday
The next system to impact Central Illinois will be the strong cold front that is expected to move in on Wednesday. Temperatures are expected to warm into the upper 40s and lower 50s ahead of the front, but will then drop quickly in the afternoon and evening as the front moves through.
There is still some uncertainty in the track of the storm. A northern track would bring mostly rain to the region with a brief period of snow in the afternoon and evening. On the other hand, a track further to the south would bring a longer period of snow to the region and increase the likelihood of accumulating snow to Central Illinois ahead of Christmas.
At this point, the northern track is favored and it appears we will see more rain than snow. While a brief period of snow would be possible, the main concern with this track would be flash freezing roads Wednesday night. As temperatures drop into the 20s and teens Wednesday evening, wet roads could start to ice over leading to some slick roads ahead of Christmas Eve. Additional snow showers are possible Christmas Eve, but these showers are not expected to be impactful at this time.
While this storm is likely to produce mostly rain, there is still some hope for a white Christmas. The European Ensembles are giving Central Illinois a 30-50% chance of receiving an inch of snow through 6 pm Christmas. The chances increase more across Indiana and Ohio where Wednesday’s storm is expected to produce a bit more snow. You can read more on our local white Christmas probabilities here.
A bitter cold Christmas
Whether or not the Wednesday cold front brings Central Illinois accumulating snow, the cold air is coming. Temperatures are expected to only reach the teens and lower 20s on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with wind chills in the single digits. The coldest temperatures will come Christmas morning when lows will be in the single digits with wind chills between -5° and -10°. Warmer an more seasonal temperatures are expected by the weekend.
The Winter Solstice and the Great Conjunction of 2020
The Winter Solstice occurs at 4:02 am CST on Monday, December 21st marking the official start to winter and is when the amount of possible daylight is at it’s shortest in the Northern Hemisphere. This is not to be confused with December 1st which marked the start of Meteorological Winter.
The Winter Solstice happens instantaneously as the Earth’s tilt of 23.5° leans the Northern Hemisphere away from the Sun. Even though Earth is actually closer to the sun this time of year, its the tilt of the Earth that is responsible for the change of seasons across the globe.
The Great Conjunction of 2020, also known as The Christmas Star, will happen Monday evening as Saturn passes directly behind Jupiter in the southwestern sky. There is some concern that clouds could disrupt the view along and north of I-74, so if you are hoping to get a glimpse at the closest visible Great Conjunction since the middle ages, you’ll want to drive south to get away from the clouds. You can read more on the Great Conjunction of 2020 here.