It’s that time of year when people are wondering about their chance for a white Christmas. Despite historic, early-season snow from Calgary, Alberta to Roanoke, Virginia, the overall snow-covered area in North America is shrinking as temperatures rise with climate change.
The U.S. December temperature average has climbed just over 2°F in the last half-century. Over two thirds of the 244 cities analyzed have warmed at least 1°F since 1970, while only 3 percent have cooled 1°F. And several northern cities have warmed more than 6°F, including Burlington, Vermont; Fargo, North Dakota; and Presque Isle, Maine. This warmer weather can lead to more winter precipitation falling as rain, as shown in a Climate Central report.
But even with rising temperatures, we still get snow and rounds of extreme cold. In fact, the snowiest Christmas on record dumped an incredible 21 inches in Erie, Pennsylvania last year. And as our snow & ice toolkit explains, a warmer atmosphere will increase the moisture that leads to precipitation. So even though temperatures are stacking the deck against a white Christmas, there’s still a chance of drawing some wintry weather where temperatures are cold enough.