Santa’s On His Way

OSWEGO, NY – There are several inches of snow left on the ground.

Freezing drizzle is in the immediate forecast. But, there’s no cause for alarm; Santa said he will be making a stop in Central New York tonight.

Bill Gregway, local observer for the National Weather Service, agrees with the Jolly Old Elf.

“History is on our side for a white Christmas. We might see temperatures in the upper 30s on Christmas around here,” he said.

Dating back 46 years, to 1964, generally about 72 percent of our Christmas Days have been white, Gregway said.

Last year 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. A trace of snow fell 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.

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).

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.

For example: 2000 was very snowy, but ’01 wasn’t. Christmas 1978 had a lot of snow and the next year we had rain. In 1982 we had a high of 60 and a low of 41; the next year it was 7 and -1.

There was no snow on the ground for Dec. 25, 2006; it was more reminiscent of Easter than Christmas.

The high topped out at 41 degrees and the low stuck at 33 degrees. So, instead of snow, 0.27-inch of rain fell.

The year before (2005) had 5 inches of snow left on the ground Christmas Day; and it had to fight to stay there as the temperature climbed to 40 degrees (the low was only 35 degrees) and 0.21-inch of rain fell.

It was the first time since Christmas Day 1994 that no new snow had fallen and the first time it rained on Christmas Day since 1979, Gregway pointed out.

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.

By “white,” he means there is at least one inch of snow on the ground.

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.

Of the 12 green Christmases (since 1968), eight were completely lacking snow and four had just a trace, Gregway said.

In 2001, only a few inches of snow fell during December, and at Christmas time, it was all melted. Just 0.4-inch fell late on Christmas Day. An, in 2007, just a trace was recorded on Dec. 25; not enough to make it a white Christmas by Gregway’s standards.

There wasn’t much doubt if Christmas 2000 would be white.

“Between eight to 10 inches of snow had fallen,” according to Gregway. “It was difficult to tell exactly, the winds were greater than 30 mph on Christmas Eve and in the mid-teens most of Christmas Day blowing the snow all over the place.”

For Christmas 2002, there was four inches of snow on the ground and another three inches fell Christmas Day.

Since 1989, the Oswego area has had five green Christmas Days – in 1994 when the temperature got up to 40 degrees, in 1996 when the high was 37 degrees, 2001 when the mercury hit 36 degrees, in 2006 when it was a balmy 41 degrees on Christmas Day, and 2007 when it hit 34 degrees.

1997 just made it for a white Christmas.

There was one inch of snow on the ground and 0.3-inch fell that day.

There have been (in the last 42 winters) 29 times when it snowed on Christmas Day (including three days of a trace), and 13 times it didn’t snow, including 1979, 2005 and 2006, when it rained.

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).

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 19 Christmas Days 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.

1997 just qualified as a white Christmas. The high was 41 and the low was 30. A total of 0.3-inch was added to the 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.

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.

Last year (2009) 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.