Dream On?

    We are just two weeks away from Christmas Day, and the return of colder air may have some of you wondering, “Will we see a White Christmas in South-Central KY?”  That’s certainly a valid question.  The thing is, getting a White Christmas in this part of the world is almost as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. 

     By the National Weather Service’s definition, it takes at least 1” of snow observed on the ground OR at least 1” of snow falling on December 25th to “officially” make a Christmas “white”.  In 140 years of reliable record-keeping in Bowling Green, that’s only happened 14 times.  So history says the odds are against it.  But it’s not impossible.  Remember what happened two years ago?  Perhaps this picture will remind you:  

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      That’s from Christmas Eve 2010, when nearly 4” of snow fell in Bowling Green.  An additional 1.1” the next day made for our whitest Christmas since 1963!  That year, our city had its deepest snow cover ever measured on Christmas morning (6”).  Here’s a complete list of White Christmases for Bowling Green (data courtesy of Louisville’s National Weather Service):

1880:  4” on ground

1899:  1.2” falling on Christmas Day

1909: 4” falling on Christmas Day

1912:  2” on ground

1914:  3” falling on Christmas Day

1935:  4.5” falling on Christmas Day

1962:  2” on ground

1963:  6” on ground

1966:  3” on ground

1969:  3.4” falling on Christmas Day

1989:  1” on ground

1992:  3.5” falling on Christmas Day

1993:  1” falling on Christmas Day

2010:  1.1” falling on Christmas Day, 4” on ground

    As I look at that list, a couple of things jump out at me.  One, there was NO White Christmas in the 1970s despite some brutal winters in the latter part of that decade.  Flurries fell on Christmas Day 1977, but nothing more.  That amazes me, especially when you consider that over 34” of snow fell here in Winter 1977-’78.  I also find it interesting that when we do see White Christmases, they tend to be bunched together.  Notice there were three of them in a six year span way back when from 1909-1914, four in the 1960s, and three between 1989 and 1993.  Things that make you go “hmmm”.  Well, they make me go “hmmm”, anyway.  I guess what I’m getting at here is that even though the pattern has been mild to warm overall lately, do NOT count us out for seeing a White Christmas just yet! 

    Of course, to make it snow, three things are a must:  Cold air (the most obvious), moisture, and lift (usually provided by a storm system).  Will the stars align to allow for all three to come together on or close to Christmas Day like they did two years ago?  Well, a lot can change two weeks out, but one model suggests some blocking in the upper atmosphere taking place over SE Canada next week and in the days leading up to the 25th.  This COULD (I stress could) lead to a wintry scenario playing out here around the middle of next week. 

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     Such blocking would force storm systems to take a more southerly track across the United States, pulling far less warm air northward into the Ohio Valley and bettering our chances for seeing the white stuff.  Most of our significant snows come from systems that track across the Dixie states that send moisture northward into cold, arctic air over the region.  That’s exactly how it happened in 2010, a month in which over 8” of snow fell in Bowling Green.  Could something like that happen again?  It could, but history says it’s not likely.  White Christmases are a rare treat here, indeed. 

    Of course, if you like Christmas mild, you probably felt vindicated last year.  Under glorious sunshine, we warmed to a high of 56° on December 25, 2011.  Our warmest Christmas (in case you were wondering) was 1982, when the high reached 70°.  Just a year later came our coldest Christmas, with a high of just 10° coming after a bitterly cold morning low of -7°.  That’s quite a contrast! 

    It will be fun to watch how things unfold as the big day draws near.  But no matter what the weather, I hope you and yours have a joyous Christmas!

Shane