White Christmas unlikely in Northeast


ITHACA, N.Y. – If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas in the Northeast, keep dreaming. Your chances are melting away.

For this holiday season, the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University has completely revised its annual white Christmas probability statistics.

For the past decade, the center has been using meteorological data from 1961 through 1990. Now the statistical chances of seeing an inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day will be based on the years 1971 through 2000.

The best chance. As a result, the most likely place to find a white Christmas – Caribou, Maine – has seen its chances dwindle for a snowy Dec. 25 to 93 percent from a 97 percent probability.

Caribou, the largest city at the northeast tip of the United States, is home to nearly 2,100 miles of snowmobile trails. In 1978, Caribou had a record 33 inches of snow on the ground Dec. 25.

Every 10 years, the climate center recalculates its probabilities for a white Christmas based on the previous 30 years of information.

Including the ’90s. “Starting this year, we dropped off the 1960s and added the 1990s,” said Keith Eggleston, senior climatologist at the center.

“If we added the 1960s back, the probabilities would likely increase, but we are interested in calculating climate normals – that is standard throughout the world.

“Thirty years is enough to get a pretty good idea about the climate. It’s pretty stable. But, if you want to see a trend, you work with more recent years.”

During the 1990s, some normally snowy Northeast cities experienced several snow-free Christmases.

Chances decreased. “I wasn’t surprised to see the probabilities go down. If we have a few snowy Christmas days over the next decade, then the opposite will occur and the chances of a white Christmas will increase when we recalculate in 10 years,” said Eggleston.

Concord, N.H., which enjoyed an 87 percent probability of a white Dec. 25 for the last decade, has seen its chances fall substantially to 73 percent.

The top 4. After Caribou, Concord is the most likely place in the Northeast to see an inch or more of snow on the ground Christmas Day.

Syracuse, N.Y., has jumped over Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vt., to become the third most likely spot to have a white Christmas, according to the center’s revised probabilities.

Like the previous set of chances, Syracuse still has a 70 percent shot at seeing an inch of snow on the ground at Christmas.

Meanwhile, Portland’s and Burlington’s chances of seeing measurable snow on the ground dropped dramatically.

Portland, which ranked No. 3 on the previous list and once had an 83 percent chance, has dropped to fourth spot at 66 percent.

Burlington, which had been No. 4 four with a 77 percent chance in the old data set, now sits at No. 6 with a 63 percent chance.

Other concerns. Are greener Christmas Days an indication of global warming? Eggleston says no.

“I don’t think this would be a reliable indicator,” he said. “We’re just looking at the difference between two numbers, and you really want to examine a trend. The difference between two numbers doesn’t necessarily mean a trend.”


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