(Not So) White Christmas
While some of us are perfectly accustomed to rainy, sunny, or cloudy Christmases, for the many in the US, White Christmases are as essential to the holidays as wreaths, mashed potatoes, and overpowering holiday scented candles. This year, as you probably have noticed (or heard someone complain about), dreaming of a White Christmas may be the closest some may get to snow. And no, it wasn’t the Grinch who stole winter weather, but rather El Niño to blame.
El Niño conditions happen when there are above average ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. Normally, the winds across the ocean blow warm water from the west (Americas) to the east (Asia and Australia). During an El Niño year, the winds weaken or reverse direction, bringing the warmer air above the ocean onto the United States.
Now, imagine cutting the country in half, hamburger style, from San Francisco, CA to Richmond, VA.
During an El Niño winter, the southern part of the country is wetter and colder than usual, and the northern part is drier and warmer. So this year you were more likely to get snow on Christmas in Arizona or California than you were in New York or Massachusetts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that this El Niño could be one of the strongest on record, outranked by only the 1997 El Niño which caused damages nationwide with mudslides in California to tornadoes in Florida.
So what does this mean for the rest of the year? It’s difficult to make El Niño predictions because different factors impact the results. Like Christmas trees, no two El Niño years are alike. But what we can expect is that this winter probably won’t be whatever a typical winter looks like in your region. So get out (or stay in) and enjoy the wonderful anomaly.
Hate to burst your bubble, Bing, but the only white flakes you’ll see in New England this Christmas are the topping of the coconut macaroons or Uncle Dean’s dandruff.