The mild weather that Midwesterners have enjoyed the last week is expected to end as a cold spell works its way toward Columbia this afternoon.
Temperatures could drop as much as 30 degrees from morning highs in the 60s to evening lows in the 30s, said Jon Carney, a meteorologist in the St. Louis office of the National Weather Service.
Today’s rainfall could start freezing before sunrise Thursday morning and is likely to turn into snow by Thursday afternoon.
Because the ground is still warm from the past few days’ above-average temperatures, it is unlikely that there will be significant accumulation initially, Carney said.
Ice is the more pressing worry, he continued.
Carney said trees and power lines will likely freeze up quickly, though the weather service is still unsure how much ice or snow could stick.
“(The snow) might not accumulate very much,” Carney said, “but we’re kind of concerned about the ice.”
The winter weather comes after a string of unseasonably high temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s, creating what Anthony Lupo, an MU professor of atmospheric science, said are perfect conditions for winter snowstorms. Meteorologists predict that the warm East Coast temperatures this week will stay.
“What this indicates is that there’s a severe contrast between our warm muggy air to the Southeast and the onrush of cold air that’s coming in from the Northwest,” Lupo said. “That contrast, of course, is going to provide the ideal conditions for a storm to develop.”
The recent high temperatures are unusual, but not necessarily unheard of for this time of year, Lupo said. A couple of days of warm weather can occur in November every year, he said, “but for it to be this warm for this long probably only happens once every five years or so.”
Lupo added that a few days of high temperatures in the fall are not indicative of a greater overall climate change.
“You wouldn’t relate this to any sort of climate change,” Lupo said. “What you can say is that this kind of weather may become more common as the climate changes, and that would certainly be true whether this was human-caused global warming or natural fluctuations. I think we’d need a few more years to say with any confidence that we’re getting more warm spells in November.”