Most white Christmas dreams will be crushed this year

December 13, 2021
Jeff Huffman

Snow will be sparse this Christmas east of the Rockies and south of I-90, and confidence is high that it will be unusually warm across the Southeast.

An onslaught of winter storms is likely to blanket much of the West with feet of snow over the next 12 days, especially in higher elevations. A white Christmas is also likely across the Northern Plains, Great Lakes, and inland areas of New England from one or two winter storms prior to the 25th.

Cities where snow on Christmas Day is not that uncommon, such as Denver, Des Moines, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York and Boston, are unlikely to see the magical morning this year. And farther south, a pre-Christmas storm may bring the potential for heavy rain or thunderstorms from the Southern Plains to the Ohio Valley.

White Christmases have become less frequent across more than half of the nation, according to the new 1991-2020 climate normals.

There is some evidence climate change may be leading to warmer Decembers across the Southeast, making snow even more rare around the holiday. But the grinch to blame for this year's brown Christmas across the Midwest is an oscillating climate pattern known as La Niña. This cooling of the equatorial Pacific waters correlates with a wavier jet stream across North America that allows warmer air to surge north more frequently from the Gulf of Mexico.

Temperature outlook during the week of Christmas (NOAA Climate Prediction Center)

Long range teleconnection data suggests a change in the pattern may allow colder air to penetrate deeper into the center and eastern parts of the nation by early January, but above normal temperatures (overall) are likely to continue in the Southeast for much of the winter.

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