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After Saturday morning ice, a brief weekend warm-up

Baltimore area in for a "roller coaster" of weather from a frigid Saturday to a Christmas that could reach 50s

Baltimore is forecast to experience some weather whiplash in the coming days, with a glaze of ice Saturday morning, a brief warm-up Sunday and then the start of a more seasonable holiday week ending with little hope for a white Christmas.

A warm front is forecast to reach the region Saturday, but precipitation ahead of it should mix with the frigid air that has gripped the region the past two days.

Some light snow was possible overnight before turning to a mix of sleet and freezing rain. Less than an inch of snow and one- or two-tenths of an inch of ice is forecast by midday, with the highest amounts expected in northern suburbs to the west of Interstate 95.

Temperatures have remained in the teens and 20s since early Thursday morning, peaking at 26 degrees Friday afternoon at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to preliminary data from the National Weather Service. That is two degrees below normal lows for this time of year.

But the region is forecast to warm above freezing by midday Saturday, from the upper 20s in the early morning to the mid-40s by sundown and the lower 50s by midnight.

How slowly or quickly temperatures rise in the morning will help determine whether the amount of icy precipitation meets or exceeds predictions. Freezing rain and sleet occur when warm air overhead causes snow to melt as it falls, but re-freeze when it reaches cold air near the ground.

"We have cold temperatures at the surface, so anything that falls will be rain freezing on contact," said Luis Rosa, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Baltimore-Washington forecast office.

Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties canceled any Saturday morning school activities because of the icy forecast. The region was placed under a winter weather advisory through 9 a.m.

Temperatures are forecast to keep rising Saturday into Sunday, possibly approaching 60 degrees in the late morning.

While Friday's high temperatures in the 20s was close to normal lows for this time of year, Sunday could start off some 15 degrees above normal.

"It's kind of a roller coaster ride going on here," said John Gresiak, a senior forecaster for AccuWeather.com.

The warm-up will be brief, though. A cold front is forecast to rapidly drop temperatures back into the 40s Sunday afternoon, and lows could reach the upper 20s early Monday morning.

Next week, the weather looks tranquil but for a slight chance of some snow or rain Thursday. Temperatures will be mostly in the 30s and 40s, Gresiak said.

By the Christmas holiday weekend, another warming trend is expected. Climate forecasts show unseasonable warmth stretching across the eastern half of the country around Dec. 25, while the West gets a more chilly holiday.

"We're looking at a warmer pattern by the middle of next week and close to 50 degrees is possible for Christmas Day," Rosa said.

sdance@baltsun.com

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