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El Nino-Driven Weather Pattern to Shape White Christmas Likelihood Across US

By by Jillian MacMath, Staff Writer
December 15, 2015, 2:55:08 AM EST

The strongest El Niño in 50 years will unfold this winter and significantly alter the chances for a white Christmas across the country.

Locations not typically draped in white on Dec. 25 may have a better chance than usual this year due to the weather phenomenon.

Overall, however, a smaller percentage of the U.S. than normal is likely to wake up to the wintry scene associated with the holiday.

“Average snowcover across the U.S. on Christmas Day is between 35 and 40 percent,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Ben Noll said.


“I’d expect it to be slightly lower than average this year — not because of a lack of storminess, but because of a lack of sustained cold air behind any storm.”

An inch of snow on the ground is considered a white Christmas.

Throughout the month of December, the El Niño-driven weather pattern will send frequent storms from the West Coast across the southern Plains, Deep South and then up the East Coast.

In the days leading up to Christmas, a storm or two may send a shot of wintry weather to the West.

“A strong Pacific jet stream could send a storm or two from California into the Southwest, boosting Sierra snowfall and bringing increased chances for a white Christmas to places like Salt Lake City, Flagstaff and Denver,” Noll said.

Some areas across the central and southern Plains could receive a blanket of snow, giving Lubbock, Texas, Oklahoma City and Wichita, Kansas, a better-than-usual shot at a white Christmas.

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“Farther north, it is a bit less certain whether cold will be in place to meet a storm,” Noll said.

In some areas, the lack of cold air will lessen the amount of snow that typically falls in the Midwest and East Coast.

A likely eastward storm track up the Appalachians and into the mid-Atlantic might leave places like Asheville, North Carolina, covered in snow.


“Washington, D.C., and Baltimore probably have about average chances for a white Christmas while Philadelphia, New York and Boston have slightly lower-than-normal chances.”

The interior Northeast will also have slightly lower-than-usual chances.

The pattern may also result in slightly lower-than-usual chances for the northern Plains and Midwest, including cities like Chicago and Detroit.

“Even if a snowfall were to occur on Dec. 20 or Dec. 21 across parts of the Midwest and Northeast, a relatively quick return to mild air could melt a lot of the snow,” Noll said.


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