OSWEGO, NY – After a brief, but blustery, visit from Old Man Winter a couple days ago, it looks like a white Christmas is a sure bet this year, despite temperatures in the 40s the past few days.
2015 and 2014 were the first back-to-back green Christmas Days since 2006 and 2007 – and the fifth in the last 10 years, according to Bill Gregway, local observer for the National Weather Service.
He blamed El Niño, the weather pattern which covered this region in warm air.
However, there has been nary a mention of El Nino this year. Instead, words like blizzard and windchill have been bandied about.
“There is a 90 percent probability of normal temperatures for the Northeast this Christmas,” Jessica Spaccio, a climatologist with the NOAA-funded Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University.
Oswego County will likely have snow this holiday season, she said.
It will be seasonal Christmas Eve with “lows” climbing to near 30 degrees. Temperatures forecast for Christmas Day will be around 35 in some places.
As always in Oswego County this time of year, lake effect snow is possible.
According to Gregway, “Each year we have about a 66.6 percent chance of a white Christmas. This year, it looks like the majority rules.”
“It’s been real warm recently. But not enough to melt off all of our snow cover,” he said. “We had around 5 inches in most places and have between 1 – 3 inches left. Looks like it’ll be a white Christmas.”
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 from 2015 to 1964, historically, close to 67 percent of our Christmas Days have been white, according to Gregway’s figures.
“Christmas 2015, 2014 and 2011 were green; 2012 and 2013 were white. That means there have been 18 green Christmases and 34 were white (since 1964),” he said. “Slightly more than twice as many Christmases have been white.”
From 2001 to 2015, there have been six green Christmases.
The 1980s saw the most green Christmas Days. From 1981 to 1990, there were five white Christmases, the other five were green. With a total of three already, the 2000-teens just might break that record in a few years.
Gregway 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 15 (1971, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2015).
Of those, 11 were completely lacking snow on the ground and four had just a trace, Gregway said.
Since 1968, there have been 28 times when it snowed on Christmas Day; two days of a trace and 17 times it didn’t snow, including 1979, 2005 and 2006, when it rained.
Last year (2015), the high was 53 degrees (a degree warmer than 2014) and the low was 40 degrees (two degrees cooler than 2014). It was a green Christmas with no snow on the ground and no new snow.
A Recap of Recent Christmas Days:
In 2015, the high was 53 degrees and the low was 40 degrees. There was no snow on the ground and no new snow fell that day, according to Gregway.
In 2014, the high was 52 degrees and the low was 42 degrees. There was no snow on the ground and no new snow fell that day.
In 2013, the high was 19 degrees and the low was 3 degrees. There was 3 inches of snow on the ground and 0.5-inch fell that day.
In 2012, the high was 31 degrees, low 25 degrees and 3.2 inches of new snow fell and there was 6.0 inches on the ground.
In 2011 it was 41 and 18 with no new snow and none on the ground, either.
In 2010, there was 6 inches of snow on the ground. The high was 22 degrees and the low was 19 degrees. It didn’t snow on Christmas Day.
2009 was a white Christmas. There wasn’t any new snow, but 2 inches were already on the ground.
Christmas 2008 was also white. But the two years prior, 2007 and 2006, were both green Christmases.
In 2006 and 2005 it rained on Christmas Day.
The only time there were three consecutive green Christmas Days was 1986, 1987 and 1988.
2006 was the first green Christmas since 2001.
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).
Christmas 2014 recorded the highest low on Christmas Day (42 degrees), edging out 1982’s 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 5 includes 1989, followed by 1980 (21 inches), 1995 (20 inches), 1978, 1985 (16 inches), and 2000 (10 inches).
The most rainfall on a Christmas Day was 0.99-inch in 1979
Looking at the last 26 Christmas Days (as of 2015) we see:
In 1990, there was 5 inches of snow on the ground and 1 inch of new snow fell that day. The high was 27 degrees and the low was 14 degrees.
For 1991, the high nudged up to 29 degrees and the low was 16 degrees. The snow figures were the same as the previous year.
In 1992, the high got up to 33 degrees and the low only hit 12 degrees. There was an inch of snow on the ground and 0.6-inch fell that day.
In 1993, the high was 25 degrees and the low 12 degrees. There was 5 inches of snow on the ground and 1.1 inches fell that day.
In 1994, the high was 40 and the low was 33. There was no new snow, and no old snow, either. It was a green Christmas.
1995 made up for it. The high was 28 and the low 22. New snow totaled only 2.3 inches, but there was already was 20 inches on the ground.
For 1996, the high was 37 and the low was 20. It was a green Christmas with a half-inch of new snow falling during the day. There was just a trace of snow on the ground.
1997 just qualified as a white Christmas. The high was 41 and the low was 30. A total of 0.3-inch of snow fell that day and there was one inch on the ground.
The high was 28 and the low was 17 for 1998. Again, 0.3-inch fell during the day. Four inches were on the ground.
For Christmas Day 1999, the high was 28 degrees and the low fell to 4 degrees. There were 6 inches of snow on the ground, and 1.5 inches more fell during the day.
For Christmas Day 2000, the high got up to 14 degrees and the low sank to 8 degrees. Between 8-10 inches of wind-blown snow was on the ground and 0.6-inch fell that day.
Christmas Day 2001, was green with a high temperature of 36 degrees and a low of 27 degrees. Late in the day, 0.4-inch of snow fell. There wasn’y any old snow on the ground.
In 2002, the high reached 28 degrees and the low wasn’t far away at 26 degrees. And, 3 inches of snow fell. There was 4 inches on the ground.
In 2003, the high peaked at 35 degrees and only fell back slightly to 33 degrees on the low side. There was just an inch of snow on the ground, and 0.6-inch fell late in the day.
For 2004, the high got up to 20 degrees while the low bottomed out at 12 degrees. Another 5.5 inches of snow fell. There was 7 inches on the ground.
It rained on Christmas Day 2005 (0.21-inch), the first time since 1979. The high hit 40 degrees and the low slipped back to 35 degrees. It was also the first time since 1994 that it didn’t snow on Christmas Day; the last time before that was 1987. Despite some larger accumulations earlier in the week, there was just 5 inches left on the ground.
The high hit 41 degrees and the low fell to 33 degrees in 2006. There was no snow on the ground and 0.27-inch rain fell.
Christmas Day 2007, was green with no snow falling during the day. There was just a trace on the ground. The high was 34 degrees and the low was 32 degrees.
On Dec. 25, 2008, the high hit 42 and the low was 30. There was 6 inches of snow left on the ground despite the warm spell right before the holiday. Another 1.2 inches fell during the day.
In 2009 we saw a Christmas Day high of 37 and a low of 23. There was no new snow. There was 2 inches of snow left on the ground.
For 2010, the high was 22 degrees and the low was 19 degrees. There was no new snow. However, there was 6 inches of snow still on the ground.
In 2011, the high was 41 degrees and the low was 18 degrees. There was no new snow. And, there was no snow on the ground.
In 2012, the high was 31 degrees and the low was 25 degrees. New snowfall was 3.2 inches. There was 6.0 inches on the ground.
In 2013, the high was 19 degrees and the low was 3 degrees. New snowfall was 0.5-inch. There was 3.0 inches already on the ground.
In 2014, the high was 52 degrees and the low was 42 degrees. There was no new snow and no snow on the ground, either.
In 2015, the high was 53 degrees and the low was 40 degrees. There was no new snow and no snow on the ground.