OSWEGO, NY – There are a few patches of white left on the ground. Temperatures forecast for Sunday are more like Easter than Christmas.
Freezing drizzle is more likely than snow in some places. But, there’s no cause for alarm; Santa Claus said he will be making a stop in Central New York tonight, albeit with a carriage instead of his traditional sleigh.
“History is on our side for a white Christmas,” said Bill Gregway, local observer for the National Weather Service.
By “white,” he means there is at least one inch of snow on the ground.
Dating back 47 years, to 1964, generally about three-quarters of our Christmas Days have been white, Gregway said. However, he admits, Mother Nature may supersede history this year.
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 were both green Christmases – despite a trace of snow falling Dec. 25, 2007.
In 2006 and 2005 it rained on Christmas Day.
“We almost had a hat trick,” Gregway said of 2008 nearly becoming the third green Christmas in a row.
The only time there were three consecutive green Christmas Days was 1986, 1987, and 1988.
2006 was the first green Christmas since 2001.
From 2001 to 2010, there were three green Christmases.
The 1980s saw plenty of green on Christmas. From 1981 to 1990, there were only five white Christmases, the other five were green.
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 only 7.1 inches have accumulated for the winter of 2011-12.
The most snow at this point in winter is 97.4 inches in 1995. In second place is 96.1 inches in 2000.
It’s virtually impossible to predict whether there will be snow for Christmas, Gregway pointed out.
Despite what the conditions have been in early December, weather at the end of the month “is all over the place,” he said.
Dating back to Dec. 25, 1964, there have been just 15 green Christmas Days, Gregway said.
He has complete weather records 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 12 (1971, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2007). Of those, eight were completely lacking snow and four had just a trace, Gregway said.
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 5 includes 1989, followed by 1980 (21 inches), 1995 (20 inches), 1978 and 1985 (16 inches), and 2000 (10 inches).
Looking at the last 11 Christmas Days we see:
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.
In 2002, the high reached 28 degrees and the low wasn’t far away at 26 degrees. And, 3 inches of snow fell on top of the 4 inches already 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 on top of the 7 inches already 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 a trace of snow falling during the day. The high was 34 degrees and the low was 32 degrees. There was no snow on the ground.
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.