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White Christmas Only In Your Dreams, Thanks To El Niño

Ho, Ho, Ho! Where's all the snow. Recently it has looked more like Easter time than Christmas time.

Ho, Ho, Ho! Where's all the snow. Recently it has looked more like Easter time than Christmas time.

OSWEGO, NY – After a brief visit from Old Man Winter a couple days ago, December is back in “Indian Summer Mode.”

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Ho, Ho, Ho! Where’s all the snow. Recently it has looked more like Easter time than Christmas time.

It appears we’ll have our first back-to-back green Christmas Day since 2006 and 2007 – and the fifth in the last 10 years, according to Bill Gregway, local observer for the National Weather Service.

He blames El Niño, the weather pattern which is covering this region in warm air.

Jessica Spaccio, a climatologist with the NOAA-funded Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University, crunched numbers from more than 50 years of winters, including El Niño winters, to calculate which cities will see a white Christmas this year.

“There is a 90 percent probability of above normal temperatures for the entire Northeast this Christmas. This will likely keep most areas seeing green instead of white this holiday season,” Spaccio said. “Historically Atlantic City and Central Park are the only weather stations to have a higher probability of snow during El Niño years.”

Oswego’s Christmas will be of the green variety.

It will be breezy and very mild Christmas Eve with “lows” climbing to near 55 degrees. Temperatures forecast for Christmas Day will skyrocket to near 70 in some places.

As always in Oswego County this time of year, lake effect is possible. But, with the warmer temperatures any precipitation will fall as rain.

According to Gregway, “Each year we have about a 66.6 percent chance of a white Christmas. This year, it looks like the other 33.3 percent will win out.”

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.

Christmas 2013 was white and rather cold.

Dating back from 2013 to 1964, historically, close to 67 percent of our Christmas Days have been white, according to Gregway’s figures.

“Christmas 2014 and 2011 were green; 2012 and 2013 were white. That means there have been 17 green Christmases and 34 were white (since 1964),” he said. “Twice as many Christmases have been white.”

From 2001 to 2014, there have been five 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 14 (1971, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2014).

Of those, nine were completely lacking snow on the ground and five 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 16 times it didn’t snow, including 1979, 2005 and 2006, when it rained.

Last year, the high was 52 degrees and the low was 42 degrees. It was a green Christmas with no snow on the ground and no new snow.

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, Gregway said.

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) 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, 1985 (16 inches), and 2000 (10 inches).

The most rainfall on a Christmas Day was 0.99-inch in 1979