No Dream: White Christmas Looks Certain for 2013

OSWEGO, NY – After a late-December return of Indian Summer, it appears the weather will chill out and we will be enjoying a white Christmas. Temperatures forecast for Christmas Day are near 25 degrees.

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. They say more snow is on the way, we’ll have to wait and see how much.”

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.

“Right now I just have piles of snow (where it was thrown from shoveling or plowing), and even that is melting. There is a lot of green,” he said. “We had a good strecth of snow going. They say it’s going to be real cold Christmas Eve. We’ve got a bit of lake effect today (Dec. 24). We’ll see if we get any accumulation.”

Dating back from 2012 to 1964, historically, close to 67 percent of our Christmas Days have been white, according to Gregway’s figures.

“Christmas 2011 was green; 2012 was white. That means there have been 16 green Christmases and 33 were white (since 1964),” he said. “About twice as many Christmases have been white.”

From 2001 to 2012, 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.

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 13 (1971, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007 and 2011).

Of those, nine were completely lacking snow on the ground 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 weekend when high temperatures were mainly in the 40s – with some 50s, Gregway said.

Since 1968, there have been 27 times when it snowed on Christmas Day; two days of a trace and 15 times it didn’t snow, including 1979, 2005 and 2006, when it rained.

Last year (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, Gregway said.

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) 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).