the snow? Santa Claus arriving through the chimney in the snowy landscape? Children playing in the snow with their gifts? New York Central Park white? Only on film this year. That's because Christmas 2023 could be the warmest and snowiest in the United States in at least two decades due to a much warmer-than-normal air mass covering North America that will continue through the end of the year.
Snow cover in North America is now the lowest over the Christmas period since measurements began. Today, there is very little snow on the ground in the United States. The exception is the Rocky Mountains and some parts of the foothills region of New York State and northern New England.
Yesterday, only 13% of the 48 contiguous states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) were covered in snow, marking the lowest amount for December 22 since records began in 2003. Rain is falling in cities along the US border with Canada, where Rain and snow are expected by Christmas.
The absence of snow also extends across Canada, from Alberta and Saskatchewan to southern Ontario. This makes it the lowest snow cover in North America for this time of year since at least 2005. Current snow cover is more common in early April than at Christmas.
Forecasts call for warmer-than-normal temperatures in late December across much of the United States and Canada this Christmas season, especially in many areas that typically have snow on the ground in the Midwest and Northeast. For this reason, meteorologists believe it could be the hottest Christmas since at least 2003.
The forecast snow cover for Christmas morning on the 25th means that only 21% of the area in the 48 contiguous states is expected to have snow on the ground, according to NOAA. Rutgers University's Global Snow Laboratory, which has data since satellite monitoring began in 1966, says 1980 saw the lowest snow cover in the last week of December in both the United States and North America.
Climate and weather explain this year's disappointing “Christmas movie” in North America. Above to well above average temperatures are normal in December during a strong El Niño, such as the one in 2023. Even with fewer hours of sunlight, the lack of snow cover allows the sun's rays to warm more of the ground and the air above it. In addition, there are changes in climate.
The snow season is becoming increasingly shorter in the United States based on historical curves. New York City, the location where most Christmas movies are filmed, has not recorded a measurable snow of an inch or more in 670 days. The previous record was 383 days, ending on March 21, 1998. The last time at least an inch of snow fell in Central Park was on February 13, 2022.
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