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Dreaming of weird Christmas weather

| December 21, 2020 1:06 AM

Based on climatological records since 1895, many locations in North Idaho have seen at least a trace of snow on the ground on Dec. 25 over 50 percent of the time.

For 2020, it’s going to be another one of those years when it’s “going to be close” on whether we’ll have some snow on the ground on Christmas Day in the lower elevations.

Our major weather change arrived in mid-December, but the bigger storms hitting our region last weekend brought in too much warm air and most of the moisture fell as rain in Coeur d’Alene and surrounding areas.

A weaker La Nina, the cooler-than-normal sea-surface temperature event, may have resulted in this warmer-than-expected pattern. However, there is a chance that we should see some snow early Tuesday. And, there is also a chance of scattered snow showers across the region later on Christmas Day.

Despite the recent weakening of the La Nina event, Cliff and I still believe that we should still have snowier-than-normal conditions in early 2021 as the upper-level weather pattern changes to a colder northwesterly direction.

Although there is a chance of snow showers in North Idaho on Christmas Day, the snowiest Christmas Day in Coeur d’Alene occurred back in 1923 when 4.8 inches fell. In December of 2008, when a record 87.4 inches fell in Coeur d’Alene for the month, Cliff reported 3.6 inches on Dec. 25.

In terms of precipitation, rain and melted snow, 0.78 inches was measured in 1996. The coldest Dec. 25th happened in 1924 with a low of minus 4 degrees. The mildest Christmas in Coeur d’Alene happened in 1980 with a high of 52 degrees.

Last year, there were only traces of snow in the Coeur d’Alene area with no snow on the ground in the downtown area on Dec. 25. In 2018, there was just over an inch of snow at Cliff’s station.

There was more snow in 2017 as we had 2.9 inches on Christmas Day and there was over 5 inches on the ground. In 2016, there was over 13 inches of snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

We had a lot of snow in December of 2015 as Cliff reported over 21 inches on the ground on Christmas Day. During the big snowy season of 2007-08, there was a record 44 inches of snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

Across the U.S., many areas have seen a wide variety of weather on Christmas Day. Some of the coldest weather has been reported in the northeastern portion of the country as high temperatures have occasional stayed below zero. In the South, record cold was felt in 1983 as Atlanta, Ga., went to 0 degrees on that Christmas Day. The high that afternoon was only 17 degrees.

That year also had many cold temperature records in the Midwest. Low temperatures ranged from -35 degrees in Bismarck, N.D. to minus 10 degrees in Detroit, Mich.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, on Dec. 25, 2010, blizzard conditions swept across the eastern U.S. from North Carolina to Maine. Up to 32 inches of snow fell across some of these areas. New York City piled up over 2 feet of snow, 24.5 inches, that shut down all major forms of transportation.

Of course, the coldest U.S. readings on Christmas Day are in Alaska. In 1961, it was brutally cold as Fairbanks reported a low of minus 56 degrees. The high temperature for the day was minus 50. Anchorage dropped down to minus 25 degrees on that date.

When we think of places that receive a white Christmas, they are usually the northern portions of the country. But in 2004, 4.4 inches of snow fell in Corpus Christi, Texas, which was their second white Christmas in history.

In 1988, Las Vegas reported snow on the ground for the first time in history. Even in warm Arizona, there were reports of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. This happened in 1987 when residents in Tucson were surprised to see up to 4 inches of new snow.

Down in Jacksonville, Fla., there was an inch of snow on Christmas Eve in 1989.

Data from the National Weather Service says the storm on Dec. 25, 1987 that brought snow to Arizona, also produced heavy rain and an inch of ice in Arkansas. Freezing rain fell from northwestern Texas to southwestern Missouri.

Record warmth was reported across the southeastern U.S. on that date. The mercury went over the 90-degree mark in some areas as McAllen, Texas hit 91 degrees.

Some of the warmest weather on Christmas Day was in the southwestern portion of the country. Phoenix went to 78 degrees in 1980. However, Los Angeles was warmer with a high of 85 degrees on that date. The warmest temperature on Dec. 25 in the U.S. that I could find was in Honolulu as the mercury hit 86 in 1995.

Severe thunderstorms with tornadoes are not very common in December. But in 2006, a strong storm produced four tornadoes in Florida. Considerable damage was reported near the Daytona Beach area.

Merry Christmas to all from Press meteorologist Randy Mann and climatologist Cliff Harris!

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com