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No Dream: White Christmas Looks Certain for 2012

OSWEGO, NY – Well, unless there is an unexpected return of Indian Summer, it looks like we will be enjoying a white Christmas.

Temperatures forecast for Christmas Day are near 30.

Merry Christmas

As always in Oswego County this time of year, lake effect snow is possible. But, will it be enough qualify for a white Christmas?

“History is on our side for a white Christmas,” according to Bill Gregway, local observer for the National Weather Service. “Each year we have about a 66.6 percent chance of a white Christmas. This year, I’d say the odds are a bit better.”

By “white,” Gregway means there is at least one inch of snow on the ground. For example, Christmas Day 2003 started with a mere 0.4-inch of snow on the ground and then received 0.6-inch late in the day to just make Gregway’s 1-inch requirement.

Dating back 48 years, to 1964, historically, close to 67 percent of our Christmas Days have been white, according to Gregway’s figures.

“Christmas 2011 was green. In the past 48 years that means there have been 16 green Christmases and 32 were white,” he said. “Twice as many Christmases have been white.”

From 2001 to 2011, there have been four green Christmases.

The 1980s saw the most green Christmas Days. From 1981 to 1990, there were five white Christmases, the other five were green.

Since Dec. 25, 1964, there have been just 16 green Christmas Days, Gregway said.

He has complete weather data since 1968 when he began keeping (NWS) records. However, he also has some old notes that indicate 1964, 1965 and 1967 were also green.

Going back to Christmas 1968, the number of green Christmas Days stands at 13 (1971, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2011).

Of those, nine were completely lacking snow and four had just a trace, Gregway said.

It’s virtually impossible to predict whether there will be snow for Christmas, Gregway pointed out.

Things have cooled down considerably since the first part of this month when high temperatures were mainly in the 40s – with some 50s and even a 60 mixed in.

“Weather at the end of the month has been all over the place,” Gregway said. “We’ve gotten a lot of wind the past couple days but not really what you’d call a lot of snow, at least for this time of year.”

There have been (in the last 44 winters) 29 times when it snowed on Christmas Day (including three days of a trace), and 14 times it didn’t snow, including 1979, 2005 and 2006, when it rained.

Over all, the coldest Christmas Day, Gregway said, was in 1980 when the high (10 degrees) and low (minus 16 degrees) averaged out to minus 3 degrees.

Other cold averages include 3 degrees in 1983 and 5 degrees in 1969, the only other two years where the low was below zero (-1 and – 6, respectively).

The lowest low temperature (since 1968) on Christmas Day, according to Gregway, was the minus 16 degrees in 1980.

The highest high is 60 degrees (1982) and that same year recorded the highest low on Christmas Day (41 degrees).

The lowest high temperature reading was 7 degrees, 1983.

The most new snow to fall on Christmas Day, since 1968, was 17 inches in 1978.

The most snow already on the ground for Christmas Day was 25 inches in 1989.

The top 6 includes 1989, followed by 1980 (21 inches), 1995 (20 inches), 1978, 1985 (16 inches), and 2000 (10 inches).

The least amount of snow we have had for this part of the winter (September – December) is 4 inches in 1931, Gregway said. That is followed by 1939 (6.3 inches) and 2001 (7.8 inches). Right now, 11.9 inches have accumulated for the winter of 2012-13 with about 5 inches still on the ground.

The most snow at this point in winter is 97.4 inches in 1995. In second place is 96.1 inches in 2000.

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