Warm days ahead; winter solstice on Thursday

As the week ahead leads to Christmas and the official start of winter, the weather calls for delightful, not frightful, holiday temperatures.

Instead of Old Man Winter arriving, temperatures will moderate from the upper-30s, through the 40s and reach 50 degrees.

It’s a magical and special time of year, as the winter solstice approaches and people are hustling and bustling, shopping and visiting Santa Claus.

Two meteorological conditions will take place this week, according to Paul Head, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in State College.

Winter officially begins at 11:28 a.m. Thursday.

The solstice marks the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight hours, Head explained.

While every day is 24 hours, the winter solstice is when the sun is out the least amount of the day, he said.

It’s a matter of astronomy and planetary science.

As the Earth travels around the sun, it does so on a 22 1/2 degree angle, Head said.

It is not wobbling, but is leaning away from the sun.

On Thursday, the sun’s direct rays are hitting the Tropic of Capricorn, he said.

During the winter solstice, all locations south of the equator have day lengths greater than 12 hours.

Meanwhile, all locations north of the equator have day lengths less than 12 hours.

In the Southern Hemisphere, or below the equator, Thursday marks the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.

After the winter solstice, the days gradually get longer and the nights shorter.

“That’s a good thing,” Head said.

Even though it’s dark outside when most people get out of work, the solstice is a signal of more daylight to come in the following days, and it’s one of the origins of the modern winter holidays.

The term solstice means sun stands still.

Meanwhile, enjoy the warmth because it won’t last long, Head said.

While warm airflow from the Pacific Ocean sweeps across the U.S. this week, bringing less-than-frigid outdoor conditions, that pattern will change, he said.

Still, today through the weekend leading up to Christmas appear to be showing temperatures in the mid-30s and climbing into the 40s, the forecast indicates.

Although ice has formed on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, there has not been enough snowfall to cause any concern about river flooding caused by ice melt over the immediate days ahead, he said.

“It will get cold again after Christmas,” Head said.

He anticipated a cold blast of air from the Arctic region replacing the Pacific Ocean airflow.

As for the forecast, conditions today will be noticeably warmer, with clouds and a high reaching near 42 degrees. Tonight, expect isolated showers before 1 a.m. and temperatures bottoming out at 37.

Tuesday is expected to be cloudy with the slightest chance of some showers and a high near 50. Look for partly cloudy conditions Tuesday night, and a cool night, with a low of 32.

Wednesday is forecast to be sunny and bring a high of 41. While the daytime high is pleasant, temperatures will drop to a low of 23 at night.

The first day of winter won’t feel like it, with a high reaching near 38, and a low that night of 28.

As the holiday weekend draws closer, Friday will be a warm day, with a high near 45. Showers are likely to arrive that night, with a chance of precipitation at 60 percent, and low temperatures in the upper-30s.

Saturday is likely to be wet with showers and a high near 46 and a low of 30.

Christmas Eve also offers a chance of rain and some snow showers, according to the forecast.

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