Few dreams of a white Christmas will be realized over the Lower 48 in 2019. Unless you live in the far-northern parts of the central United States, the mountains of the western United States or the interior Northeast, you’ll awaken to bare ground Christmas morning.
Unusually mild weather sprawled over most of the eastern two-thirds of the nation is to blame for the lack of snow.
Historically, snow coats the ground over about 38 percent of the contiguous United States on Christmas Eve. But this year, it’s just 25.5 percent, the third-lowest on record since 2003 (2018 and 2003 had slightly less snow). The most extensive Christmas Eve snow cover occurred in 2009, when over 58 percent of the nation was blanketed. Washington even witnessed a white Christmas that year, but it hasn’t since.
The National Weather Service declares a white Christmas if at least an inch of snow covers the ground at 7 a.m. on Dec. 25. This year, few places will meet that criteria — unless they are in the mountains or in the northern tier of the Lower 48.
Since Monday, snow has fallen in the mountains throughout the Southwest thanks to a high-altitude disturbance swinging through, but this isn’t that unusual. It may seem odd that half a foot of snow blanketed Flagstaff, Ariz., on Christmas Eve, but historical data show that the high-elevation city has a 56 percent chance of a white Christmas.
East of the Rocky Mountains, the Christmas Day weather story is warmth. From Arkansas to Iowa, several record highs could be set thanks to highs in the 60s to near-70 degrees.
Many areas between the Appalachians and the Rockies will record temperatures that are 10 to 25 degrees above normal.
If you’re seeking abnormally cold weather, you’ll have to head to Alaska, where many areas will endure highs near or below zero on Christmas Day.
Whereas Anchorage has received no measurable snow this month, it is expecting 2-3 inches Tuesday night, which should extend its streak of white Christmases to 34 in a row.