With Christmas fast approaching, we wanted to take a look at your Christmas climatology, particularly notable highs and lows in your market as well as the odds of having snow on the ground for the holiday.
The graphic above shows the probability of a white Christmas, defined as the probability of having at least one inch of snow on the ground based on the 1981 to 2010 U.S. climate normals. The darker shading indicates where there’s less than a 10 percent chance of having snow on the ground while the white areas indicate where there’s a 90 percent or greater chance of a white Christmas.
Even though the map shows the HISTORICAL odds of a white Christmas, the actual amount of snow in a given location can vary a lot from year to year due to natural weather variations. For example, this year, U.S. snow cover in mid-December was the largest it’s been in a decade. Outside the U.S., it’s worth noting that Siberia, generally one of the coldest places on Earth for this time of year, had a scorching November with temperatures up to 14°F higher than normal. That trend has continued into December, leaving snow cover that is running way below average.
The graphic below shows the warmest, coldest, wettest, and, in certain instances, the whitest Christmas on record for your market. A Climate Central analysis found that winter is the fastest-warming season in the U.S. over the last 100 years. That's in step with the global increase in temperatures caused primarily by heat-trapping greenhouse gases. While climate change is causing winters to warm overall, temperatures on a single day such as Christmas (or any other day of the year) can show large variability—coming in much colder, or much warmer, in a given year than the overall trend would suggest.
Some other interesting tidbits to note on this festive occasion:
- A recent study by the Department of Energy found that the estimated energy used each year by holiday lights equaled nearly the same energy use of 200,000 homes annually
- Christmas trees also have a climate connection, whether the needles are real or not. This year, the U.S. will import most of its artificial trees from China. That translates to a lot of carbon emitted from both production and shipment. Live Christmas trees also face some complications from climate change. Extreme precipitation and drought can kill developing trees and warmer temperatures during the growing season can add another layer of stress. That’s in part why a team of scientists led by researchers at Washington State University recently received a $1.3 million grant to help engineer a more resilient Christmas tree.
Best wishes from Climate Central for the holiday and New Year.
NOTE: Since we are getting the Christmas Climate Matters out early, we will not be sending one next week. Expect your next Climate Matters the week of December 30.