Expected warmer air dims chances for white Christmas

Eric Elwell, Storm Center 7 chief meteorologist
Eric Elwell, Storm Center 7 chief meteorologist

It is beginning to look and feel a lot like Christmas. After a quick melt of the snow over the weekend, snow showers returned to end the weekend adding at least a coating in some spots. However, if you are hoping for a white Christmas this year, I’m afraid I may have to rain on your Christmas parade.

Two storm systems look as if they will impact the Miami Valley late this week and into the Christmas weekend. It also looks like we will be “warm-sectored” by both storms, meaning the chances are we will see more liquid snow than the pretty frozen stuff.

So why do we always have to dream of a white Christmas? Why can we get such decent snow storms in early December but rarely get one around Christmas. I guess if we got a white Christmas every year, it wouldn’t make it so special, would it? So how often do we have snow on the ground for Christmas Day. I decided to look at the numbers for our region and here is what I came up with.

First, let’s define the “official” meaning of a white Christmas. According to the National Weather Service, you have to at least have one inch of snow on the ground Christmas morning to be considered an official White Christmas. In the Miami Valley, that has happened 21 times in the last 123 years (since records have been kept in our area). The last time we had any snow on the ground was in 2013 when a trace was measured on the ground. Later that season, the “polar vortex” would become a popular term as winter kicked into high gear in early 2013. Despite that coating of snow, it wasn’t officially a white Christmas. For that, you have to go back all the way to 2010 when there was 2 inches of snow on the ground and just under a ½” of snow fell on that day.

Do you remember the Christmas of 2004? Chances are if you’ve lived around this part of Ohio, you would remember it well. That year we had a record 16 inches of snow on the ground Christmas morning. Areas across the southern Miami Valley into southeastern Ohio were devastated by a major ice storm which left four people dead and over 675,000 people without power. On top of that, a record low temperature of 17 degrees below zero was set on that day. Ouch!

When you look at all the past data that we have for the Miami Valley, it turns out the chances of getting a white Christmas, an official one anyway, is about 28 percent. The chance of one this year is looking quite a bit less than that. But that being said, there has already been plenty of cold and snow in the pattern so far this December, so we can’t rule out anything else yet! Maybe Santa Claus will bring us another surprise Christmas morning.

Whether we get snow or not, I hope all of you have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!

Eric Elwell is WHIO StormCenter 7 Chief Meteorologist. Contact him at eric.elwell@coxinc.com or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.