No snow! Chicago breaks record for latest-ever 1st snowfall
The Windy City certainly hasn't been a snowy city this year. Chicago broke one snow record on Monday and another could be in jeopardy by New Year's Eve if the city doesn't measure any snow by then.
Decorative snowflakes for the holidays are pretty much the extent of the snow seen in Chicago so far this season.
Chicago’s snowfall drought has officially reached record status, and AccuWeather meteorologists say it could be until 2022 before any measurable snow is recorded.
As of Thursday, the last time Chicago experienced measurable snowfall of 0.1 of an inch or more was earlier this year on March 15 when 1.8 inches fell. Though snow has fallen on five days since the beginning of December, none of it was enough to measure. The previous date for the latest measurable snowfall on record for O'Hare Airport in Chicago is Dec. 20, 2012, and the Windy City just shattered that record when measurable snowfall did not materialize on Monday.
Now that winter has officially arrived, Chicago's immediate chances of snowfall look about the same that they did through fall.
"It doesn't look like Chicago will be in line for any accumulating snow through the [upcoming] weekend, at least," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex DaSilva. In fact, high temperatures rose into the lower 40s F on Monday and Tuesday, with no precipitation, frozen or otherwise.
Temperatures dipped on Wednesday, but are anticipated to rise again at the end of the week, making for a mild holiday weekend in Chicagoland. High temperatures will reach a maximum around 50 F on Christmas Eve. A white Christmas is not looking likely for the Windy City this year.
No snow was recorded in Chicago this past Monday, meaning the city set a new record for the latest first measurable snow of the season. Should it not snow enough to measure through Dec. 31, the longest stretch of days without measurable snow would also be broken. In 2012, there was no measurable snow from March 4 through Dec. 19, or 290 consecutive days. That year, it snowed 0.3 of an inch on March 4 and 0.2 of an inch on Dec. 20.
As of Dec. 22, there have been 282 consecutive days without measurable snow in Chicago. Eight more days are needed to tie and nine would break the record.
"Looking at the weather pattern through the end of the year, while there will be an active storm track across the northern tier of the Midwest, cold air may not hook up with each system in just the right way to allow significant snow to fall in Chicago," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said.
"The majority of precipitation with most storms every few days through the end of the month looks to be rain, but since it only takes 0.1 of an inch of snow to snap the record, it could still be tough to get all the way to Dec. 31 without snow," Sosnowski said.
This seasonal lack of snow is in part due to the overall unusually warm conditions this month.
"Temperatures during the first 22 days of this December have averaged 6.7 degrees above normal, and the overall weather has been more typical of October," Sosnowski said.
To put that in perspective, highs typically trend downward from the low 40s to start the month to the lower 30s by the end of the month and low temperatures trend downward through the 20s as December progresses.
The temperature soared above 50 degrees Fahrenheit four days so far this month and has reached into the 60s three times. Last week, Chicagoland set two new high temperature records in the middle 60s. The previous record for Dec. 16 was 60 F set in 1984.
"There seems to be a theme for much of the central U.S. this December with warmth and snowless streaks," Sosnowski said, adding that the jet stream has allowed storms to hammer much of the western third of the nation. Those storms have been riding well to the north over the Midwest as they travel across the country.
Chicago's situation is similar to Denver from earlier this season. December began with a high temperature more reflective of a summer day in the Mile High City as the mercury rose to 73 F. This was the highest temperature Denver had reported for the month in more than 40 years. It also tied the daily high record for Dec. 1.
"After setting a record for the latest in the season for the first measurable snow, the Mile High City finally got its first snowfall with 0.3 of an inch on Dec. 10," Sosnowski said and added as of Dec. 23, snowfall has remained scarce and it has not snowed enough to measure since.
Denver managed to tie its record for all-time consecutive days without measurable snow this year with 232 days, a mark that was also reached in 1887, according to the National Weather Service. In 1887, it did not snow enough to measure from March 5 to Oct. 22. There was no daily snowfall of 0.1 of an inch or more from April 22 to Dec. 9 this year.
Salt Lake City also had an abnormally dry and warm fall this year, as its average first measurable snowfall is around Nov. 7. This year, the city's first measurable snowfall occurred on Dec. 9 when a storm brought 1.4 inches. The last time Salt Lake had a first measurable snowfall in December was 2017, and this has occurred only two times before then.
Portions of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest have been getting snow by managing to stay on the colder side of the storms. Since Nov. 1, Minneapolis has picked up 17.8 inches compared to an average of 18.2 inches through Dec. 23.
It would not take much for cold waves to be a bit more persistent and for snow to dip farther south in the Midwest with only a slight shift in the storm track; we have the whole winter to go," Sosnowski said.
Astronomical winter officially began on Tuesday, Dec. 21, at 9:59 a.m. CST.
While the ongoing lack of snow may be disappointing to some around the holidays, it will ease holiday travel in much of the Central and Eastern states with near-perfect weather conditions for last-minute holiday shopping. Still, there could be airline delays and flight cancellations due to aircraft and crews being displaced from the stormy pattern in the West.
Correction: This story previously misstated the number of days that Chicago has gone without snow in 2021 as well as the city's record for consecutive days without snow in a calendar year. Chicago went without snow for 282 days as of Dec. 22, not 182. And the city's record for days without measurable snow from 2012 is 290, not 190.
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