Despite a cold start to Tuesday, New Jersey is in the midst of a slow warming trend.

Welcome to the last day of Autumn! It has been a chilly end to the season, with 4 of the last 5 days stuck well below normal. As we enter Winter and the final third of the month of December, a warming trend will kick in.

As of this writing, Tuesday morning is one of the coldest of this particular stretch. Calm winds are a double-edged sword - while it means we don't have to contend with a bitter wind chill, unstirred air also tends to be colder. We're starting out with a hard freeze across all 21 counties in the state. The temperature map shows widespread teens, along with single digits to the north and 20s in the south. Bundle up!

Skies across New Jersey on Tuesday will be mostly sunny. Winds will remain light. Even so, thermometers will end up on the cool side of normal yet again, with high temperatures in the upper 30s to around 40. Normals for December 20 range from 42 at Newark and Trenton, to 45 at Atlantic City.

Tuesday night looks like a typically cold December night, as lows dip into the mid 20s under partly cloudy skies.

And on Wednesday, we'll return to near-normal (seasonable) temperatures, with forecast highs in the mid 40s. Clouds will increase steadily through Wednesday afternoon, but we will stay dry.

Our next storm system arrives on Thursday, and we could see showers anywhere in the state through Thursday morning and afternoon. Temps should be warm enough that these showers will fall as rain. Having said that, I can't rule out snowflakes, depending on exact timing. And because this is a glancing blow from an overall weak storm system, anything that falls from the sky will remain light. (In fact, the GFS and European models show little to no precipitation at all on Thursday.)

The forecast for late-week has been in flux recently, with high uncertainty surrounding a series of storm systems that could impact New Jersey in some way. I think we're settling on a solution that includes no major storm systems on the horizon. So no travel disruptions are expected surrounding the Christmas holiday weekend.

Skies will clear a bit by late Thursday, with mostly sunny skies taking over by Friday. Temperatures will hold steady on Friday, in the mid 40s, with a bit of a breeze out of the west-southwest.

There's a hint of a shower popping up on Saturday (Christmas Eve), but that rain chance looks even smaller than Thursday's. Meanwhile, high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday could touch 50 degrees in South Jersey.

Models show our next storm system of any significance will hold off until late Monday, and it will be mostly (if not totally) rain with highs again around 50 degrees.

You know the arctic air will surge again soon - maybe the last week of the year, maybe not until 2017. But for the coming week at least, we'll enjoy a thawing respite from bone-chilling cold.

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