If you live in the northern and eastern half of the country there's a far better chance than the previous several Christmases that the treetops will glisten and you'll hear sleigh bells in the snow. Well, maybe not sleigh bells in the snow, but maybe tires spinning in the snow as we make our way to Grandma's house (who hopefully isn't run over by reindeer on Christmas Eve). But enough with the bad Christmas song lyric word play, and on to what's on everyone's mind: Will there be a 'White Christmas'?
On December 13th, snow covered approximately 22.3% of the U.S. The snowpack has really deepened across the Great Lakes, Upper Midwest, and interior Northeast over the past week and it's likely that snow will still be on the ground 2 weeks from now when Santa comes to town. Snow cover stretches all the way down into the southern Appalachians and also encompasses most of the normal places in the Rocky Mountains and western mountain ranges as seen in the map below.
A surge of somewhat milder weather and possibly some rain will eat away at the snow cover in the southern and central Appalachians, southern Great Lakes, and in eastern portions of the Northeast over the next 7 days, however, cold and snowy weather is forecast to return before Christmas. While it's still pretty early in the game to forecast exact amounts and location of snow, model guidance indicates an active period with potential widespread snow. Please note, the below is a preliminary forecast for snowfall the week of Christmas and will likely change between now and then. This does NOT reflect the total snow cover expected for Christmas Day.
The weather pattern around Christmas not only looks cold for much of the nation but also active with increased risk of snow, which could alter plans for last minute shoppers. Interestingly, the cold air looks to dig down far into the South, so we'll leave a small chance for a 'White Christmas' in some southern locations that historically have a very low probability of seeing snow on the ground Christmas Day. Below is a map of the historical probabilities of at least 1'' of snow on the ground on Christmas from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Note, this map only shows probability for 1'' or greater snow, but doesn't take into consideration lesser amounts, which would still be a big deal in the South!
With cold air in place across much of the U.S. (see temperature map vs. normal below) there will be a good chance that much of the northern third of the nation will be snow-covered for Christmas regardless of whether the snow falls on Christmas Day or shortly before.
We went through a list of the 70 major cities across the U.S. and assigned each city with a likelihood of snow on the ground for Christmas Day. With approximately 34% of the major U.S. cities having a high likelihood of a 'White Christmas', overall we'd have to say the odds are pretty good this year.
Regardless of snow or no snow, Christmas this year is definitely going to be feeling much more wintry as compared to the past 2 or 3 years. Last year, a very cold spell earlier in December was a tease for a "Winter Wonderland" type of Christmas with freezing temperatures all the way to the Gulf Coast. However, just as Christmas Day rolled around, temperatures turned much milder across the eastern U.S. The exception was on the West Coast where temperatures were well below normal for Christmas Day 2016 which was one of the coldest of the past 26 years for the region. Meanwhile, the eastern U.S. was under a 2-3 year long spell of very warm Christmas Days, 2015 being the warmest in 26 years. In fact, December 2016 was exceptionally warm overall causing trees and flowers to bloom prematurely, not very Christmas-like.
So whether the thought of a 'White Christmas' makes you go 'Bah Humbug!' or 'Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow', we wish everyone a merry Christmas and a healthy New Year! For the record, we say 'LET IT SNOW'!