Sunday, March 26, 2023

Unusual Christmas weather

| December 19, 2022 1:06 AM

Based on climatological records since 1895, many locations in Coeur d’Alene and other regions in North Idaho have seen at least a trace of snow on the ground on Dec. 25 over 50% of the time. From 2018 through 2020, snow on the ground on Christmas Day was minimal. We did have an inch on the ground in 2018, but there was not enough snow in 2019 or 2020 to qualify as a White Christmas. Last year, we did have 6 inches on the ground Dec. 25, and 2022 will be another year we can count on a White Christmas in the lower elevations of the Inland Northwest.

The first half of December has certainly been frigid across the region. The average high temperature at Cliff’s station has been under the freezing mark, close to 28 degrees. And this week, it’s going to be even colder with highs mostly in the teens and 20s. More snow is expected later this week, so the amount of snow on the ground in the Coeur d’Alene area should be around a foot over the next week. Some of the outlying areas will likely have more.

As we get toward Christmas Day, it looks like milder air will be pushing into the northwestern U.S. High temperatures should climb into the 30s across our region. There is another storm that is expected to arrive around Christmas Day. However, don’t be surprised to see a rain and snow mix from this system. If the storm brings more rain than snow, there will still be plenty of snow on the ground to give our region a White Christmas. This also includes the Spokane region as the airport has reported over a foot of snow on the ground since last week.

The first part of the 2023 could start out with more rain than snow across the Inland Northwest. Then, colder air should move back into the region and bring additional snowfall to the area. As Cliff and I mentioned, we believe the second half of this winter season will not be as snowy as the first half as the cooler La Nina sea-surface temperature event in the south-central Pacific Ocean is starting to weaken.

Looking back at the climatological records for Coeur d’Alene, the coldest Christmas Day occurred way back in 1924 with a low of -4 degrees. By contrast, the warmest Dec. 25 was in 1980 with a mild 54 degrees. That day in 1980 was also the wettest as 0.79 inches of rain fell. The most snow to ever fall on Christmas Day was in 1923 with 4.8 inches. December of 2008 was a wild month when a record 87.4 inches fell in Coeur d’Alene. Cliff reported 3.6 inches from a storm on Dec. 25.

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. However, during the big snowy season of 2007-08, there was a record 44 inches of snow on the ground on Dec. 25, 2007.

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 north-central and northeastern portion of the country as high temperatures have occasional stayed below zero. According to data from the National Weather Service, the coldest Christmas Days across the northern U.S. occurred in the 1800s. For example, it was -35 degrees in Bismarck, N.D., on Dec. 25. Amazingly, Minneapolis was even colder with a low of -39 degrees in 1879.

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

According to the National Climatic Data Center, during the Christmas holiday weekend in 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 two feet of snow, 24.5 inches, that shut down all major forms of transportation.

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

Some of the warmest weather on Christmas Day was in the southwestern portion of the country. Phoenix, Ariz., went to 78 degrees in 1980. However, Los Angeles was warmer with a high of 85 degrees on that date. The warmest temperature for Dec. 25 in the U.S. that I could find was in Honolulu, Hawaii, as the mercury hit 86 degrees in 1995. Miami, Fla., did hit 85 degrees in 2016.

Merry Christmas! Randy Mann and Cliff Harris.

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