As Thanksgiving gives way to thoughts of the December holidays, the perennial question arises: “Will we have a white Christmas?” Forecasts from top meteorologists suggest that, due in part to El Niño, the prospects for a snowy holiday may not be as promising this year, according to long-term forecasts for December.
El Niño’s Impact on December Weather Patterns
Meteorologist Jeff Baranick of DTN highlights that weak, moderate, and strong El Niños typically bring warm weather for most of the U.S. in December, except the Southwest, where it’s cooler. While snow is not ruled out, the chances of a white Christmas are diminished for much of the country, particularly outside the western mountains.
Probabilistic Forecasts and Winter Predictions
Baranick emphasizes that this forecast is “probabilistic,” conveying uncertainties by expressing forecasts as probabilities. AccuWeather meteorologist Paul Pastelok concurs, indicating a lack of snow in the East, especially in large northeastern cities, making a white Christmas unlikely.
Contrasting Fortunes in the East and West
In the West, however, Pastelok predicts more snow in mid to late December, particularly at higher elevations, with a high chance of a white Christmas in the western mountains during El Niño years.
Federal Forecasters and Climate Prediction Center’s Insights
Federal forecasters from the Climate Prediction Center foresee above-normal temperatures for the eastern continental U.S. in December. Polar vortex expert Judah Cohen suggests an overall milder pattern with less chance of snow in December but is watching for potential disruptions to the polar vortex that might impact weather in January.
National Weather Service’s Definition of a White Christmas
According to the National Weather Service, a white Christmas is defined as having 1 inch of snow on the ground on the morning of Dec. 25. Although it doesn’t have to snow on Dec. 25, some flurries would enhance the holiday spirit.
Historical Snowfall Patterns and Bing Crosby’s Influence
Typically, only about 40% of the contiguous 48 states have snow cover on Christmas, with better chances in northern states like Minnesota, Maine, upstate New York, or mountainous regions in the West. The U.S.’s fascination with a white Christmas dates back to Bing Crosby’s 1942 rendition of Irving Berlin’s song in the film “Holiday Inn,” creating a romanticized image of Christmases past.