Will climate change make White Christmases a thing of the past?


For those who dream of a white Christmas year after year, this could one day be a thing of the past. According to a recent analysis of December weather conditions over the past four decades, U.S. snowfall readings on December 25 have fallen since the 1980s.

Although scientists note that the decreases are still small, they have not gone unnoticed by people across the country.

From 1981 to 1990, December temperatures remained below freezing and about 47% of the country had snow for Christmas. The average snow depth measured at 3.5 inches, as recorded by the University of Arizona on behalf of The Associated Press. But from 2011 to 2020, December’s average temperature hovered around 35 ° F, and snow covered only 38% of the country on Christmas Day at a depth of 2.7 inches.

The largest snow deficit spans much of the Midwest, where coverage has increased from 55% from 1981 to 1990 to about 41% from 2011 to 2020. Average snowfall depth on Christmas Day has increased from 3.5 inches to 2.4 inches at the same time respective periods.

A separate study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also shows a decrease in the probability of snowfall over Christmas for much of the United States, with a significant decrease in the risk of snow in Washington and Iowa. In Dubuque, Iowa, the odds of a White Christmas have dropped from 63% in 1981 to 2010 to 42% today, a whopping 21% drop. In Walla Walla, Washington, there is now less than 10% risk of snow on December 25, compared to 19% in 1981 to 2010.

There are, however, slight increases in the likelihood of snowfall over Christmas for New York City, Philadelphia and Concord, New Hampshire.

Xubin Zeng, an atmosphere specialist at the University of Arizona, points out that the changes are still minor and the cause – whether it’s climate change or natural weather variability – remains to be determined. But Zeng notes that the data on fewer snowy Christmases matches global warming trends.

There are fears that we will experience even fewer White Christmases in the future, making this scenario a nostalgic memory rather than a reality.

“With global warming, the prospects for a White Christmas in many parts of the United States will indeed be slim,” Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, told AP.

This is something that many scientists will be watching closely for years to come, especially now, as parts of the country are facing mega-droughts and may find some relief from the snowfall.

“It counts a lot as the emotional weight of how the season should feel or what we think it should feel,” said Twila Moon, National Snow and Ice Data scientist. “But the climatologist in me is also very interested in a White Christmas, because it is an indicator of how much and what kind of precipitation we have received. And this is also very important because a large part of our country is currently facing extreme drought. “

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