On Thursday afternoon, I said to someone that it was "offensively cold" outside, and even in a culture where someone always seems to be offended by something, I didn't think that description was out of line.

Most people like a little winter chill, but remember, we don't actually start the season until Saturday at 11:19 p.m. and Thursday's temperatures were a brisk reminder of what may lie ahead in the ensuing months.

Luckily, Friday begins a gradual warmup that will carry us through the middle of next week — meaning optimal traveling weather for Christmas.

Sunshine will be plentiful on this last full day of fall, with highs in the mid-30s, hovering at or slightly above the freezing mark. We turn frigid again for one more night, with partly cloudy skies and a light wind, and lows ranging from the lower to mid-teens in North Jersey to near 25 in South Jersey and along the shoreline.

Saturday turns from partly to mostly cloudy, still with a light wind, and temperatures inching upwards. Most locales will still be in the mid- to upper 30s, but some spots could touch 40 or above for highs.

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By Sunday, we are solidly in the 40s, with just a few clouds here and there.

Looking ahead (although I usually leave it to Dan to do most of that), we could be seeing temperature readings in the 50s by Wednesday, for Christmas. So it won't be white this year, but it will be good for getting around to see friends and family.

Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow returns Thursday, Dec. 26. Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News."

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