Will We Have a White Christmas?

As dreary as winter weather can get, there’s something magical about a White Christmas.  Unfortunately, weather trends suggest that we might miss out on the winter wonderland this year because of an especially strong El Nino effect.

What is El Nino?  Basically, it’s a meteorological phenomenon caused by unusually high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean around the equator.  For coastal areas this means a higher risk of tropical storms, but as far as the midwest is concerned it just means warmer and drier winters.  Over the past few decades El Nino effects have become more frequent, but it’s unclear whether this is a normal fluctuation or caused by global climate change.  

winter weather
Comparison of ocean temperatures for the last strongest El Nino on record and this year (that only kind of looks like one of those rainbow bouncy balls) Source: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-massive-el-nino-is-now-too-big-to-fail-scientist-says-20151009-story.html

Regardless, this year’s El Nino is the strongest since 1997, and brings with it some uncharacteristic winter weather.  Last time Wisconsin experienced strong El Nino effects, the average winter temperature was about 10 degrees higher than the expected average.  And after experiencing almost 60 degree weather this past Sunday, we’re likely to see similar record-breaking temperatures this year.  

So will we have a White Christmas?  Historically speaking we have about a 40% chance of snow on December 25th, but higher temperatures and decreased precipitation due to El Nino make this a little less than probable.  But who knows – weather is pretty unpredictable, and freezing temperatures later this week bring with them the hope of snow.  Maybe we will have to spend the first few days of winter break shoveling out our driveways and shaking snow off our boots.

On second thought, maybe the snow can wait.

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3356506/Will-White-Christmas-Map-reveals-states-likely-snow-December-25.html

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-massive-el-nino-is-now-too-big-to-fail-scientist-says-20151009-story.html

http://www.jsonline.com/weather/after-warm-wet-weekend-temperatures-become-more-seasonal-b99633085z1-361678881.html

http://www.wisn.com/weather/weather-blog-el-nino-potential-impacts-on-wisconsin-weather/35723820

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-massive-el-nino-is-now-too-big-to-fail-scientist-says-20151009-story.html

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