A white Christmas in 2021? Why that is much less seemingly even the place it usually snows


The winter season isn’t as cold as it was about 50 years ago, particularly in the northeastern United States and in cities on the Great Lakes, including Chicago. The Lake Michigan metropolis just broke its record for the latest start to the snow season.

That means Chicago and other areas that often greet a “white Christmas” can hardly enjoy such aesthetics this year.

There was traces of snow in Chicago that fall and winter, but there was nothing “measurable” by National Weather Service standards. Previously, the last measurable snow in Chicago in a season was December 20, 2012. On average, the city can publish its benchmark on November 16. Snow comes Friday or Saturday. Rain yeah

Chicago isn’t unique in that the effects of climate change are postponing seasonal starts and stops, according to some scientists.

Using winter temperature data from 1970 to 2021 at 246 locations across the United States, Climate Central, a consortium of climate scientists and journalists, reports that about 98% of average winter temperatures have increased over five decades. And 84% (202 out of 241) of those places warmed 2 ° F or more.

The five biggest climbs are in Burlington, Vt. (7.2 ° F), Concord, NH (6 ° F), Milwaukee (6 ° F), Chattanooga, Tennessee (5.8 ° F), and Green Bay, Wisconsin (5.8 ° F).

Central climate

Central climate

Winter has been warming the fastest in most parts of the United States since 1970. All seasons are feeling the effects of climate change, but analysis by Climate Central shows that over the past 50 years average winter temperatures have risen faster than any other season for 38 out of 49 states (excluding Hawaii).

Some climate scientists stress the need for a rigorous review of snowfall trends as temperature affects snowfall in two different ways. In warmer border areas, warmer air turns snow into rain. But in cooler, more northerly areas, where even higher temperatures are below freezing, warmer temperatures bring more snow because warmer air contains more moisture and that moisture falls as snow.

Warm average winters can still bring dangerous cold snaps, in part because climate change is making the extremes worse. Nevertheless, when the temperatures drop, an arduous refrain often circulates: “What global warming?”

Central climate

Central climate

Another factor is the limits of human memory, our penchant for nostalgia and the arbitrary importance attached to experiencing Christmas in a winter wonderland, which of course never has been done in the warmer climates that celebrate the holiday around the world played a role.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says that in many US states, the chance of a White Christmas in any given year is less than 25%.

Rutgers University Global Snow Laboratory finds that continental US snow increased slightly, rather than decreased, in the last week of December, according to data based on satellite imagery from 1966.

And Rutgers climate scientist David Robinson told the Associated Press that people in the 60s and 70s often think there is less white Christmas now because the 1960s had far more white Christmas than usual, weather records show. The decade was a new anomaly.

Why did you put so much emphasis on a “white Christmas”?

The snowy obsession is in large part due to Irving Berlin’s favorite “White Christmas,” commonly heard in Bing Crosby’s baritone, including when he first sang it during World War II and in the film “Holiday Inn “Was seen. As the best-selling Christmas song of all time and the best-selling single of all time, “White Christmas” has sold 50 million times according to the Guinness World Records.

“White Christmas” was written for the 1942 musical film Holiday Inn. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 15th Academy Awards.

PARAMOUNT PICTURES / Ronald Grant Archive / Mary Evans

Many Christmas traditions, including the hope that it will be equally joyful and bright and white, can be linked to the cultural preferences of 19th century America. The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in Troy, New York, Sentinel in 1822, according to the New York Historical Society. The stanzas, which are now often referred to as “Twas the night before Christmas”, contain images of newly fallen snow on Christmas Eve.

Decades later, the Currier and Ives lithographic prints, which included snowy scenes from American life at the time and “… the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio, grew in popularity.

More recently, even London and Dublin gambling houses are tracking the odds and collecting bets every year on whether or not there will be snow on December 25th. Current odds say Aberdeen, Scotland has the best chance of a White Christmas in the UK. Year.

This map shows the historical probability that there will be at least 1 inch of snow on the ground at US weather stations on December 25, based on the latest (1991-2020) US climate normals from NOAA. The darkest gray shows places where the probability is less than 10% (sorry west coast, gulf coast, deep south). White shows probabilities of more than 90%.

NOAA / Climate Control Center

Before you celebrate warmer winters

Aside from the holiday mood, there are sobering issues that accompany warmer winters:

Migrating pests: Disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes and ticks can migrate to regions that were previously too cold to inhabit;

Water supply risk: Warmer winters can lead to decreasing snowpacks in the west. The recent drought in the region has already shown these effects as less meltwater helps replenish the reservoirs and water the crops in the spring.

Lower fruit yields: Cherry, apple, and peach trees require a minimum number of winter cooling hours before they can develop fruit in the following spring and summer months. This cooling period decreases and could ultimately limit fruit development.

Less snow and ice for winter sports: The multi-billion dollar winter recreation industries, which include skiing, ice fishing, and snowmobiling, could suffer an economic blow due to rising temperatures and less accumulation of snow and ice;

For more information on climate change and the snow sports industry, see Climate Central’s On Thin Ice report, Protect Our Winters website, or NOAA’s climate and ski report.

For more region-specific data, the National Ski Areas Association has a list of industry statistics to analyze.

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