Warming temperatures are good news, but there's one big wrinkle for the upcoming Christmas weekend: a rising chance of rain on Christmas Eve, Saturday.

As the big holiday weekend draws closer, countless New Jerseyans are preparing to pack bags and hit the roads. I still maintain that there are no major weather worries before, during, or after the holiday weekend. However, I can't ignore the increasing chance for rain Saturday, which could impact your outdoor Christmas Eve activities.

As Thursday begins, we're just barely getting clipped by a storm system centered well north of New Jersey. That has increased cloud cover, with showers and sprinkles coming close to NJ's northern and western borders. Our air is very dry, so it's going to be difficult for any raindrops or snowflakes to make it to the ground. Just in case, I'm including a chance for a shower in the Thursday morning - the best chance will be between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Thursday, especially in North Jersey.

The rest of Thursday will feature a transition from clouds to sun alongside a stiff breeze up to about 20 mph. Temperatures should pop above normal for the first time since Sunday, with forecast highs between about 45 and 50 degrees.

Thursday night will be clear and chilly, and otherwise uneventful. Low temperatures will bottom out in the upper 20s to lower 30s.

Sunshine will abound Friday as high pressure once again takes control of our atmosphere. Even though I expect clouds to creep in by late Friday, it should be a very nice late December day - perfect for traveling, celebrating the start of Winter Break, and/or last-minute shopping. High temperatures will reach the upper 40s to near 50.

As I mentioned above, Saturday (Christmas Eve) is a stumbling point in an otherwise pleasant holiday weekend. A storm system is modeled to pass right over New Jersey, and I now have to include a chance for steady to heavy rain in the forecast. One model - the NAM - shows showers pushing into New Jersey early Saturday morning. I believe the best chance for raindrops will be between about 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday. The steadiest and/or heaviest rain is likely to occur midday, centered around 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Forecast rainfall totals currently range between 0.25" and 0.60" - not too shabby.

Oh, and to answer your budding question, I wouldn't rule out a few snowflakes in the coldest places (NW NJ), temperatures will warm well into the 40s (at least). So it's a potentially rainy day, not a wintry one. Again, I don't anticipate major travel disruptions from this "everyday" variety of rain - just be prepared for windshield wipers and reduced visibility for part of the day.

By Saturday night, the rain will be gone and skies will begin to clear. Just in time for Santa's arrival!

Sunday (Christmas Day) will be drier and sunnier - again, quite pleasant by late December standards. Forecast highs will come down slightly from Saturday, although still seasonable in the mid to upper 40s.

The forecast for early next week is still tricky. Monday will probably be the warmest day of this stretch, with temperatures in South Jersey approaching the mid 50s. My current thinking is that clouds will increase on Monday, with a chance for showers (mostly rain, maybe snow) Monday night. A slow cooldown takes over through midweek, falling through the upper 40s for Tuesday and lower 40s for Wednesday.

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