Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 6:04 AM GMT on December 23, 2008
Santa's reindeer will be hitting the skies tomorrow, and the official Weather Underground Flying Reindeer Forecast (FRF) calls for some tricky turbulence and tough sledding for Santa in some regions of the world. As Santa begins his adventure, temperatures will be a crisp -20 degrees at the North Pole Workshop. Foggy conditions will require Rudolph's red nose to light the way, since the light winds blowing simultaneously from the south and north at the Pole (think about that for a second, it's true!) will not be strong enough to disperse the fog. As Santa heads south through Siberia into China, he'll be riding a strong jet of polar air that could bring some tricky turbulence. Santa's sleigh will be heavily loaded at this point, and he'll have to negotiate the turbulent skies with great caution to avoid dumping any of his precious cargo. Fortunately, heavy snows cover much of China and eastern Asia, allowing smooth rooftop landings for the sleigh.
As Santa heads south to the Australian continent, the sledding gets much tougher. He'll have to dodge Tropical Cyclone Billy, along Australia's northwest coast. With hot summer temperatures prevailing across Australia, Santa's team will have to execute pinpoint rooftop landings to avoid showering sparks on the dry, fire-prone vegetation. As Santa heads west across Indonesia into southern Asia, he'll need to call upon the thunderstorm avoidance skills of his reindeer, Donner and Blitzen. These storm-savvy critters, named after the German words for thunder and lightning, are experts at sniffing out turbulence-free routes through seemingly impenetrable areas of thunderstorms.
Approaching Turkey, Santa will have to avoid the razor-sharp blue triangles of a cold front. Once through the front, though, he'll find ideal conditions over Turkey and Eastern Europe, where cold temperatures and snowy rooftops abound. However, the sledding quickly degrades over Western Europe, where only Scandinavia and the Alps can expect a white Christmas.
The Western Hemisphere portion of the Flying Reindeer Forecast calls for smooth flying over South America and the Caribbean. But the best conditions of Santa's entire journey await over the United States and Canada, where a series of major snow storms have left excellent rooftop snows. In the Northeast U.S., though, it'll be slow slogging for Santa, with heavy rains expected in an advance of a strong cold front expected to track through on Christmas Eve. The cold front will bring thunderstorms to the Southeast, and Donner and Blitzen will be called upon to safely guide Santa's sleigh through the front to the Southern U.S., where smooth sailing and clear skies will prevail. Excellent sledding awaits Santa in the Midwest and Northwest, where fresh snow from the latest in a series of significant winter storms will delight Santa's reindeer. However, significant rains over Southern California could make for some dangerous mudslide conditions. Santa may be forced to break into his stash to find boogie boards intended for California kids, to help him ride out the mudflows. Santa's final leg northwards across Alaska to the North Pole should be mostly uneventful, and we can expect that clear skies over the Pole upon Santa's return will make for a beautiful Christmas scene as Rudolph guides the sleigh to a perfect landing.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
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